Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) according to the National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.), is a condition that is often seen among pre-school children or those who are in their early school years who have difficulty controlling their behavior and/or paying attention to a specific thing.
Based on the estimate of the institute, there are about two million suffering from this disorder. In a classroom where there are 25 children, the institute said that one of these children suffers from ADHD.
The syndrome, having symptoms that are normally found in children, is difficult to diagnose because there might be a misinterpretation between what is normal and what is not (NIMH, n.d.). Inorder to determine if a child is suffering from the disorder, there should be proper diagnosis made by a qualified health professional. Impulsitivity, hyperactivity and inattention are the common signs and symptoms of a child suspected to have this illness (NIMH, n.d.).
Impulsitivity is present when the child reacts without any inhibitions and does not think the consequences of his actions (NIMH, n.d.). The child also gives unpleasing and inappropriate comments (NIMH, n.d.). In illustration, the child exhibiting this kind of attitude finds it difficult to wait for his turn in a game and unrelentingly hits his fellow child when he is upset (NIMH, n.d.).
More often than not, inappropriate behaviors are carried on by the child as he becomes older. During their adolescent years, they would also prefer to do easier and less complicated tasks and shun from complex activities. They find it difficult to learn something new even if these activities will be more rewarding than what they have accomplished (NIMH, n.d.).
Aside from impulsitivity, a child who has the disorder may also show signs of hyperactivity (NIMH, n.d.). A hyperactive child cannot still in one place, talks more than the usual and performs unnnecessary acts (NIMH, n.d.). This characteristic is evident when child tirelessly run around the place or is constantly on the look out for new things to do. He is always on the go and never seem to grow tired.
Children who show manifestations of hyperactivity-impulsitivity fidget with their hands and/or feet, run instead of keeping their best behavior when in an occasion that require them to, like wedding ceremonies or formal programs. They also give their answer right away even if the one asking has not yet finished asking and he does not like to fall in line or let others take their turn before he can take his (NIMH, n.d.).
Another symptom of ADHD is inattentiveness. Inattentive children can seldom keep their focus on one thing (NIMH, n.d.). They get bored easily and find difficulty concentrating on something specific. They seldom like learning new things or facts.
In school, they either have too many errors or erasures in their homeworks or activities thus, leading to low grades (NIMH, n.d.). However, the symptoms are normally apparent in children thus, the institute clarifies that not all children who show these behaviors can be considered as suffering from ADHD.
These symptoms only materialize when these behaviors are already inappropriate for the person's age and leads the child to becoming a handicap in at least two areas or aspects of his life (NIMH, n.d.). If these bahaviors do not impair the various aspects of the child's life such as his performance in school, relationship with friends, playtime behaviors and attitudes at home then, the child cannot be conclusively considered to be suffering from the illness (NIMH, n.d.).
If there is an appropriate diagnosis by a qualified physician that the child is suffering from the disorder, it was recommended by Austin, Reiss, Burgdorf in their article, ADHD Treatment (2007), to let the child go through proper and carefully monitored medication.
In 1999, the Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD (MTA Study) (cited in Austin, Reiss & Burgdorf, 2007) which compared the treatments used for ADHD using 570 children from six regions in the United States and Canada was conducted. It was revealed in the study that medication is the most effective treatment for the children diagnosed with ADHD.
However, the researchers of the MTA Study said medication is not the sole treatment for ADHD patients; there should be a combination of medication and psychosocial treatments like anger management training and social skills training to better help the child in dealing with his daily tasks (cited in Austin, Reiss, Burgdorf, 2007).
In their article, Mechanism of Action in ADHD (2007), Austin, Reiss and Burgdorf said that the most common drug used in lessening ADHD effects are stimulants such as methylphenidates (ritalin, focalin, metadate, concerta), dextroamphetamines, amphetamines (adderall) and pemoline.
Stimulants are effective for ADHD, because they can lower brain level function to the normal stage (Austin, Reiss, Burgdorf, 2007). ADHD patients are hyperactive because their brain functions at such a high level that they can no longer maintain their focus. With the help of stimulants, the child can already focus and have a better perception of his actions.
The authors (2007) said that determining the proper medication is a difficult task and it may involve a trial and error process. It is recommended that the physician giving the medication should start with a low dosage (Austin, Reiss, Burgdorf, 2007).
The reason behind this rule is that drugs react differently to every individual thus there is a need to examine first the body's reaction before going full scale (Austin, Reiss, Burgdorf, 2007).
When the appropriate dosage is found, the medication must be maintained, not to cure the syndrome but only to minimize the negative effects of ADHD in the patient's life. According to the authors (2007), these drugs do not treat the illness they only suppress the occurrence of the ADHD negative effects.
It was also recommended by the authors (2007) to have medication holidays and allow the body to function without the drugs. The positive effect during these drug holidays can be helpful for the patient on a long term basis (Austin, Reiss, and Burgdorf, 2007).
It was reported by the Science Daily (2006), that ritalin, commonly used as drug for ADHD patients was discovered in the study conducted by the John Hopkin's Children's Center and five other medical institutions, that if properly measured and given in minimal doses, are safe and effective for pre-school children.
However, the medicine is not approved by the FDA for children younger than six years old. Adderall or amphetamine is the FDA approved drug for children falling below six years old but not lower than three years old.
In the article, Study Reveals How ADHD Work In the Brain (ScienceDaily, 2006), it was reported that University of Wisconsin researchers found ritalin and the other drugs used for ADHD to be directly affecting the brain's prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC of the brain is associated with the expression of personality, decision making and attention.
These drugs also raise the levels of the chemical messengers and neurotransmitters in the brain known as dopamine and norepinephrine. The dopamine is incharge with memory formation and addictive behaviors while the norepinephrine is focused on the individual's arousal and attentiveness.