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Drug Free ADHD treatments


Research has suggested that children, particularly those diagnosed with, or at risk of being diagnosed with, ADHD achieve better educational and social outcomes with increased physical activity and opportunities for unstructured play.[1][2] Other psychosocial treatments with at least some evidentiary support include:

  • Behavioural parent training - teaches parents positive reinforcement methods for improving pre-school and school-age children's behaviour.

  • Behavioral classroom management – including individualised ‘behavioural intervention plans’ for students exhibiting inappropriate classroom behaviours.
  • Behavioral peer interventions - where teachers train a peer or peers to deliver needed social cues that reinforce targeted behavioral outcomes.
  • Cognitive training - systematic brain training with the help of a ‘brain coach’ designed to improve cognitive skills including attention, working memory, problem solving abilities, reading and, in some cases, psychosocial functioning.
  • Neurofeedback training – Computer aided training in which selected parameters of the patient´s own brain activity are made visible to the patient.[3][4]
It has been established that children diagnosed with ADHD benefit from simple and clear instructions and that behavioural interventions are most effective if they are immediate.[5]  Generally critics don’t contest the use of behavioral interventions.  Instead they contend that most children benefit from clear instructions and early, appropriate feedback that reinforces appropriate behaviour. 
Many other treatments including diet modification, yoga and meditation have been proposed as treatments for ADHD although the evidence base for these is weak.  This does not necessarily mean there is no value to these treatments. It simply reinforces the need to match any treatment to the underlying cause.  For example family counselling, may help if dysfuntional parenting is the issue.  However, it will be of little or no benefit if the underlying cause of behavioural problems is exposure to environmental toxins.

[1] Song, Lauseng, Lee, Nordstrom, & Katch, 2016Song, M., Lauseng, D., Lee, S., Nordstrom, M., & Katch, V. (2016). Enhanced physical activity improves selected outcomes in children with ADHD: Systematic review. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 38(9), 1155–1184. doi:10.1177/0193945916649954 [Google Scholar] https://ohsu.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/enhanced-physical-activity-improves-selected-outcomes-in-children

[2] Panksepp, J. (2007). Can PLAY diminish ADHD and facilitate the construction of the social brain? Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 16(2), 57–66. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2242642/

[3] Steven W. Evans, Julie Sarno Owens & Nora Bunford Evidence-Based Psychosocial Treatments for Children and Adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology Vol. 43 , Iss. 4,2014 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15374416.2013.850700

[4] Katy E. TrescoElizabeth K. Lefler, Thomas J. Power, Psychosocial Interventions to Improve the School Performance of Students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Mind Brain. 2010 Aug; 1(2): 69–74. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2998237/

[5] Goldstien and Goldstien 1998 cited in Handbook of Adolescent Behavioral Problems: Evidence-Based Approaches to ...edited by Thomas P. Gullotta, Robert W. Plant.