The treatment of ADHD

Use the links below to learn more about a particular area of treatment.

Treatment options

ADHD can respond well to treatment. In the UK, both the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) recommend ADHD be treated.

The precise treatment that the child will be offered will depend on their particular needs.

However, treatment is to include:

1. Advice and cognitive behavioural therapy
Advice, support and behavioural therapy for parents and/or the child and/or teachers.

This includes specific training on how to manage the child's behaviour most effectively and to promote ways of bringing out the best in them.

There are several behavioural techniques
Techniques may include:

  • Identifying and focusing on particular problem times or situations such as mealtimes, getting ready for school or doing homework
  • Planning in advance what to do in response to the child's behaviour and responding consistently
  • Developing techniques to improve the child's listening; for example, using
  • eye-to-eye contact, talking about one thing at a time.
  • Using "time out" and other sanctions

Social skills training, counselling and remedial teaching

ADHD commonly occurs together with other conditions. As part of their treatment, the child may be offered:

  • Training in social skills to help build relationships and avoid aggressive behaviour
  • Counselling to improve self-esteem
  • Remedial teaching to help them "catch up" at school

2. Medication

Medications do not cure ADHD, but they can help you conrol the main symptoms - inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

There are two different classes of medication available for the treatment of ADHD: stimulants, such as methylphenidate, dexamfetamine, lisdexamfetamine and non-stimulants, such as atomoxetine. Stimulants work quicker, but non-stimulants don't need to be taken as often. Your doctor will discuss with you if they think medication is needed and will select the one that they think will be most suitable for you.

Both medication and behavioural therapy is usually recommended
In most cases it is recommended that a combination of both medication and advice, support and behavioural therapy is the best way to manage the full range of problems experienced by those with ADHD. However, the extent to which this is possible will vary from region to region based on local resources and expertise.

Treatment expectations

It is important to understand the potential benefits and limitations of medical treatment for ADHD.

  • Treatment can greatly improve the symptoms of the child's ADHD, but cannot cure it completely.
  • The child's doctor will be able to discuss the best treatment based on their individual needs

While treatment is effective, it can also cause side effects.

Side effects

For a full list of possible side effects please speak to a health professional.It may take some time to find the best dose of drug treatment to use for the child. The specialist may prescribe a low dose to begin with, then increase it, aiming to achieve symptom relief while minimising.

During the early stages of treatment, you may be asked to help monitor the child's symptoms using forms provided to you, and to look out for side effects.

Length of treatment

The length of time for which the child will receive treatment for ADHD is not fixed in advance.

Treatment for ADHD may need to continue for a number of years. Some people take medication for ADHD into adulthood.

The doctor may recommend that the child stops their medication every so often to see how they get on without it (sometimes known as a "medication/treatment holiday"). Stopping treatment should be carried out only under the supervision of the specialist in charge of the child's care.





Visit our resource centre for useful information and helpful activities for parents, teachers and teenagers living with ADHD.