Every parent with an ADD/ADHD child has faced the medication question at one time or another, and probably more than once. It’s a big decision – deciding whether or not to give your child medication for their Attention Deficit Disorder. It’s not like deciding whether or not to give them an antibiotic when they’re sick, or an inhaler if they have asthma. I think that part of the reason is that those drugs treat physical illnesses or conditions; ADD medication treats a mental one.
And that is a huge part of the issue – ADD carries with it a mental health stigma. That’s part of the reason there is so much denial when testing is suggested, or when the diagnosis is made. Even as open and accepting of ADD as our family is, my son still cried when he found out he had it. Psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health in any way, shape, or form still conveys one thing to a lot of people – crazy. ADD, needless to say, does not equal crazy, nor does the majority of mental health problems that people may seek treatment for. (And yes, I am aware that “crazy” is neither a clinical nor a politically correct term.)
So, once parents get over the initial shock of the ADD diagnosis, there is the matter of medication to consider. The thing I hear most from parents on this subject is, “I don’t want my son/daughter turning into a zombie.” I can totally relate.
I knew from the time my son was a toddler that he had ADD. I waited, however, until he was 11 to have him tested. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, the doctor suggested medication. I agreed to the medication right away because I felt that it would help my son, and he desperately needed the help. I filled the prescription after leaving the doctor’s office, with plans to start him on it the next morning.
As evening approached, I started to become concerned. Was I doing the right thing? What would happen to him after he took the pill? What if he turned into a zombie, or worse, freaked out, or had seizures? I barely slept at all that night. The next morning, it took everything I had to give my son that pill, and more importantly, not let him see I was apprehensive. I was on pins and needles all day, waiting for the school to call to say something bad had happened.
At 3:30 he came home from school, dropped all of his stuff right in front of the door, as usual, and went to get something to eat. Nothing! The pill had done nothing! I didn’t know what to think. Questioning him about his day revealed a day like any other. I was confused, but decided to keep him on the medication for a little longer to see what happened.
A couple of days later, my husband and I were sitting on the sofa in the living room when our son came home from school. He dumped his stuff as usual and headed off towards the kitchen. BUT about halfway there, he stopped, turned around, and went back to where his things were laying in the floor. He picked everything up, put it all away, and then went to get his snack. Our jaws hit the floor. Who was this kid and where was our son? (A few days later I got a call from his teacher asking much the same thing.)
Here’s what I learned: when you’ve got the right medication, and the right dose, things are amazingly different, but in a very subtle way. Most parents I’ve talked to who have managed to find the right combination for their child say the same thing – it’s a gradual change that you may not notice right away. (Kind of like how you don’t notice putting on weight until your pants don’t fit anymore.)
If your child does turn into a zombie (and this is info I got from our pediatrician years ago), it usually means one of two things: either the dose is too high, or the medication is wrong. My oldest daughter tried one of the newer ADD meds and found that it just made her tired and lethargic all the time. It was one of the side effects, as I recall, and for her, it just wasn’t right.
There’s a lot more I would like to say, but enough for now. More next time.