ADD/ADHD Children: Alternatives to Medication

What is ADD/ADHD

According to Education World, the rise in prescriptions written for neurological disorders such as ADD/ADHD has increased by 500 percent since 1991. The three primary characteristics off ADD/ADHD are as follows:

  • inattentiveness
  • hyperactivity
  • impulsiveness

Parents of children who have been diagnosed with this disorder often feel frustrated and limited when it comes to options to help their child.

In the small scope of things, medications such as Concerta do have the desired outcome that many teachers and parents are hoping to see. Many children do benefit from taking the medication, or so it may seem. These children are more focused, can sit still for longer periods of time and are less impulsive.

Advocates against medication, stress that these drugs and their side effects are extremely dangerous to a child’s development. Below is a list of side effects relating to ADD/ADHD medication.

Side Effects of Psychostimulants to treat ADHD

Assorted pills

According to a study done by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, ADHD medications send more than 3,000 people to the emergency room each year, 80 percent of these are children!

  • Medications such as Adderall, have been known to cause heart problems in children with no previous history of a heart condition, sudden death due to cardiac arrest has also been reported.
  • There is an increased risk in both suicide and drug abuse, especially when children reach puberty.
  • Many children experience personality changes when under the influence of these drugs including personality disorders such as OCD (Obsessive, compulsive disorder).
  • Sleeplessness is a common side effect in children who are medicated for ADHD.
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss are also common side effects.

Alternatives to Medication

healthy food

There are many alternatives to medication that have proven to be effective in treating the symptoms of ADHD. One of those alternatives is diet. Studies have proven that eliminating sugar (or at least decreasing the amount a child consumes) has decreased the symptoms of ADHD in some children. For more information relating to ADHD and diet, check out the link for the Feingold Diet at the end of this article.

Many children who have ADD/ADHD symptoms can benefit from certain vitamins and supplements. Studies have shown that many children who have this disorder are deficient in the following nutrients:

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

Studies have proven that children diagnosed with ADHD have relatively low levels of EFAs. EFAs are necessary to build cell membranes and the junctions between nerve cells, including millions of nerve cells contained in the human brain. There are EFA supplements especially made for children which can be purchased at most health food stores.

Calcium and Magnesium

Studies have also shown that children with this disorder have decreased levels of magnesium. Calcium and magnesium work together to support the contraction and relaxation of muscles, including the timing and release of neurotransmitters in brain function. There are supplements available that are safe for children containing both calcium and magnesium and sometimes zinc as well.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins are especially important in managing ADHD symptoms. The B vitamins work together in the brain for the production of the various neurotransmiters in the brain, including dopamine which strongly influences both motor and thinking areas of the brain.

Serotonin releases feel good chemicals throughout the body and helps to decrease the possibility of depression.

Norepinephrine affects the part of the brain where attention and responding actions are controlled. Brewers Yeast, which is found in most Nutritional Stores, is an excellent source of B vitamins. A great way to encourage children to consume it is by sprinkling some on popcorn or another food they enjoy.


Iron is important to help transmit the neurotransmitters throughout the brain. Pediatricians can perform a simple blood test to see if the child is anemic. Anemia affects children neurologically which may add to the symptoms associated with ADHD.