Do alternative treatments for ADHD really work?

Do alternative treatments for ADHD really work?


Despite a wealth of evidence connecting symptoms of ADHD to neurological correlates, many societies evidently espouse social, familial, and environmental factors as primary contributing factors to behaviors observed in adolescents diagnosed with ADHD. Psychosocial and environmental factors, therefore, take a central role in the description of the disorder to describe how and why the targeted behaviors are manifested in individuals. A more balanced position rests in the middle ground of the two views. For example, mental health professionals in the United Kingdom accept the significance of biological factors in the manifestation of the disorder. However, medications for the treatment of ADHD are more conservatively prescribed, and clinicians tend to privilege behavioral interventions as the first order of treatment.

Above is an excerpt of my doctoral dissertation that focuses on the differences in perspective and treatment approaches found in different cultures with regard to ADHD. The excerpt identifies two principal treatment approaches that have been found to be the most research validated. The approaches are behavior interventions and medication. Current studies indicate that up to the age of six years of age, behavior therapy is the most appropriate treatment. Past the age of six, researchers indicate medication is found to be the most effective treatment approach.

In my clinical experience, the integration of behavior therapy and medication past the age of six provides the best treatment outcomes. This approach does not replace the importance of acknowledging psychosocial and environmental factors that influence the perception of the condition. It is imperative to understand that the use of alternative treatment approaches that are not research validated to the degree that behavior therapy and medication have been found to be, delays treatment outcomes. Currently, there is a trend among many clinicians to recommend the use of supplements or other scientific approaches like neurofeedback to address neurodevelopmental conditions like ADHD. While these alternative treatments may demonstrate some positive results with some studies, the research findings are not overwhelming and therefore do not equate with the research studies that support the current proven treatments for ADHD. The condition has complex biological underpinnings that manifest as hyperactivity and under-arousal of certain brain systems. It is therefore only reasonable that professionals promoting alternative treatments share how these treatments address the identified brain system deficits that have been addressed by more evidence based treatments. In my clinical work, parents that attempt alternative treatment approaches for their children report minimal improvements and become discouraged about overall treatment, at times.

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