When diagnosed with ADHD many parents, particularly moms, start their education. They talk to their pediatrician and diagnosing neurologist or psychologist to find out: what's the best drug free treatment for ADHD? What does the research show is the best way to treat ADHD?
Now that the NIH is funding comparative treatment studies we have just had an important research study released that showed when you compare behaviour therapy and drug therapy for ADHD treatment, the behaviour therapy is more effective.
Unfortunately we didn't get to see the third treatment group: neurofeedback, included. Though neurofeedback is a relatively new intervention, I believe in the coming years, now that the American Academy of Pediatrics has named neurofeedback a Level 1 intervention for ADHD, we will see comparative studies that include neurofeedback.
What are the main choices for treating ADHD?
1. Behaviour Therapy
Particularly for children, starting with cognitive/behaviour therapy is an important intervention for a few reasons.
- It is drug-free and doesn't produce side effects
- Children learn life-long positive habits for working effectively and efficiently
- Builds self-awareness and emotional intelligence
The downsides are:
- Labor-intensive; requires office visits and at-home behaviour training which requires parents' time, energy and patience!
- Can be expensive if not covered by insurance
2. Drug Therapy
The main drug class used to treat ADHD are stimulants such as amphetamine. There are non-stimulant drugs used when stimulant side-effects are strong. For those who don't have bad side effects the drugs can:
- Relatively quickly have a positive impact on ability to focus, and control impulsivity.
The side-effects of AHDH medications are most commonly:
- sleep disturbance
- loss of appetite
- anxiety or aggitation
- nervous movement or compulsive behaviours
The cautionary note is that the long-term effects of stimulant use are not known. As well, when originally tested for FDA approval there were no measures for long-term effects, in fact the median length of study was 4 weeks. Most drugs in trials were tested over short periods of time and in small sample sizes. No research has been conducted on how children's brain development is affected by stimulant use over years.
Neurofeedback for ADHD has been used since the late 1970s. It is documented to have positive results in meta-analysis reviews and is deemed to have a clinically meaningful impact particularly on impulsivity, and hyperactivity. The benefits of using neurofeedback:
- it is safe, drug-free and non-invasive
- the results are lasting; even after treatment has ended
- has positive impact on sleep and mood regulation as well as ADHD symptoms
Some point to the cost and the time commitment for in-office visits as negatives but especially for families with ADHD those can be mitigated greatly by renting a professional NeurOptimal unit that is configured for home use. In office visits range from $90-200/session and neurofeedback home rental ranges from $60-$90/session.
Whatever interventions are choosen it is prudent to remember that it takes time for the body to change it's behaviors--whether that's physical, mental or neural--and that taking the approach of wanting to improve the overall health of the brain and body yields the best results.
|Written by Natalie Baker, Advanced NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback Trainer and Pychotherapist in NYC & Founder of Neurofeedback Training Co.|
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"*Jeanine called me about her 8 year old son *Luigi, searching for a way to help him and alleviate his symptoms of ADHD in a holistic way. Luigi came into my office as an eager participant. He was overjoyed to hear that he had the potential to be calmer and more focused and, better yet, that he wouldn’t have to do anything to achieve results. He could enjoy his favorite movie during sessions as the brain training took place."