Decision Assist

ADHD medications


The purpose of this tool is to help you decide whether ADHD medication is right for your child. When making a decision like this, you must balance:

This tool is not a substitute for professional medical care and advice. Work with your child's doctor to help you make this decision. A second opinion from another doctor may be valuable. Medication always has potential side effects, and you should be fully informed about the risks and benefits of this type of medication. There is usually no exact "right" or "wrong" answer.

Your child's doctor may make certain recommendations to you. However, the final decision about whether to use this medication rests with you.

What is the medication?

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is when a child has trouble with attention, over-activity, or impulsiveness. For these problems to be diagnosed as ADHD, they must be out of the normal range for the child's age and development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has these guidelines:

Children who receive both behavioral treatment and medication often do the best. However, medications should not be used just to make life easier for the parents or the child's school.

Several different classes of ADHD medications are now available and may be used alone or in combination. This tool will focus on first-line stimulant medications. Other medications for ADHD are not recommended as initial treatments and should be discussed with your child's doctor.

Key points

If your child has -- or you suspect your child has -- ADHD, you should consider the following:

How much time this decision tool will take

What this tool will provide

Review Date: 9/12/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

  • Hechtman L, Abikoff H, Klein RG, Greenfield B, Etcovitch J, Cousins L, Fleiss K, Weiss M, Pollack S. Children with ADHD treated with long-term methylphenidate and multimodal psychosocial treatment: impact on parental practices. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2004 Jul;43(7):830-8.
  • Management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a parental perspective. Journal of Pediatrics & Child Health. 2005 Dec;41(12):625-30.
  • Parental perceptions and satisfaction with stimulant medication for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Developmental & Behaviour Pediatrics. 2003 Jun;24(3):155-62.
  • Pliszka S; AACAP Work Group on Quality Issues. Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007 Jul;46(7):894-921.
  • Rappley MD. Clinical practice. Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. N Engl J Med. 2005 Jan 13;352(2):165-73.
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