When children and adults are diagnosed with ADHD, it is not uncommon for the consulting professional to recommend treatment with medication and nothing else. The question most people ask me is: “Is it possible to treat ADHD without medicine?” The answer is YES.
Why you might want to avoid medication
Most parents and adults would rather avoid using medication because of their “unknown effects in later years” and for the fact that these medications are stimulants or in other words “speed”. In the 70s and 80s these medications were used in very large doses to get “high” and they had a significant street value. Things have not changed much today and physicians who prescribe these medicines are monitored by the Food and Drug Administration for strict compliance with laws governing their use.
Are you looking for drug-free treatment?
My preference has always been to treat ADHD using behavior modification techniques and other behavioral methods to help children regulate their behavior. Studies show that medication alone gives the biggest bang for the buck, but in my more than 35 years of experience, the majority of my clients were already on medication and their behavioral problems and underachievement were still out of control.
How to regulate behavior and create behavior change
The key in using behavior modification is that a child needs to be “re-enforceable” and not oppositional or defiant. Once I can assess that a child responds positively to rewards, I know we have a powerful tool that can be used to effect behavior change.
“What we know today is that BEHAVIORAL techniques work the best.
Traditional therapy goes nowhere in regulating the primary symptoms of ADHD.”
— Ned Hallowell, psychiatrist, Driven to Distraction
Does Behavior Modification work?
- Regulation of behavior is the key outcome people are looking for when prescribing medication. For about 80% of the population, it works – sometimes moderately and sometimes brilliantly.
- It is also possible to achieve positive behavior change using psychological techniques when practiced consistently and with patience and for a very long time.
Is Behavior Modification a short-term or long-term solution?
Behavior Modification needs to be implemented for a long time to sustain success. When an individual sticks with it and does the required work, the results are quite amazing. However, though most people can implement behavior modification strategies for a short period, they tend to stop when they see positive changes of behavior. They think: “Great, success! Now, I don’t have to keep up the effort.” When negative behaviors return, they choose to give up on the behavioral control techniques and try medication instead. when only medicine is used, negative behaviors can still exist.
Best Results = Medication + Behavioral Techniques
The best results come when both medication and behavioral techniques are used. If we use only medicine, remember that negative behaviors can still exist. For example, medicine can sharpen a person’s ability to focus, but it won’t make them do their homework or be more organized. The missing piece is coaching or counseling to help make changes in behavior. This can be done alongside a physician’s medical treatment or with no medication at all.
Contact me and we can talk in more detail about you or your child’s specific case.