When my son was diagnosed with ADHD a little over a year ago, I was upset to know he would have challenges ahead of him for possibly the rest of his life; I was relieved to have a diagnosis so we could move forward and try and make some changes; and I was torn about treatment methods and what we should do for him and if we should put him on ADHD medication.
We read about our options, looked at his needs and decided to try medication. This is not an easy decision or a quick fix… or the only thing we do to cope with his ADHD. But like any other medical condition, we are treating it medically. If my child was diabetic, I would adjust his diet, but also give him insulin. It’s no different with ADHD. We have adjusted how we deal with him, we have increased his physical activity, we have changed his diet, and his is still having a hard time, so we decided to try medication. Since one of the side effects listed for the medication my doctor wanted to prescribe was heart failure, we decided to see a pediatric cardiologist before going ahead with the ADHD medication.
Note to all parents: Do not let your child eat a gingerbread cookie with blue icing before seeing a cardiologist. They notice even the slightest blue tint to the lips and completely overreact.
The cardiologist ran through her tests, and reassured me by explaining that if a medication has seen one case of heart failure ever, even if they can’t say that it was caused by the medication, it has to be listed as a side effect because it happened while the patient was using it. I didn’t know that just one incidence could make something be listed as a side effect. In the case of the ADHD medication, she did not believe that there was any danger. His tests came back clear anyway, and we moved forward with Concerta.
Here is the problem with concerta … it’s a pill. A pill that can’t be crushed and must be swallowed. Have you ever tried to force a pill into an uncooperative pet? That would be more fun than trying to get a 7 year old with ADHD to swallow a pill. Every morning we endured screaming, crying, frustration and half dissolved pills that ended up in the garbage after ridiculous amounts of time on his tongue. Then I gave up and called the doctor to say I just couldn’t do it. We needed something different. She prescribed medication number 2 and ensured me it was a capsule we could open up and put with food. I went to the pharmacy to pick it up, made a comment about how we would open the capsule, only to learn that we couldn’t do that because the contents could burn his throat. Feeling frustrated, I left without the prescription…and with a promise from the pharmacist to find something that will work.
Then we tried Adderall. It is a capsule that we could open up, and we started at 5mg. After three months we were up to 15mg where we decided to stay. In terms of providing him focus and keeping him calm, this medication was perfect. Kel’s grades improved, he started to make some friends at school and his Grade 2 teacher said she never would have known there were any problems with his behaviour in the past. He was much easier to reason with, and the outbursts at home finally stopped, or at least the rages stopped…and the outbursts were more “normal” for a kid his age.
On the other hand, my son experienced loss of appetite and we compensated by giving him ensure drinks and attempting to make foods that he likes a lot and having lots of healthy snacks on hand. He maintained his weight, or gained in small amounts for several months. In January he had maintained his weight but not gained anything, and I was getting concerned. I also noticed Kellen getting increasingly self conscious. He refuses to take part in fun activities because he’s worried about people watching him and he seems to socialize less and less over time. He cries at the drop of a hat, and he started staying awake later and later each night, causing him to have no energy during the day. Then we went back to the doctor and found he lost 2 pounds over a few months, and we decided it was time to try something new.
So now he is starting on Strattera. My doctor said we could open the capsule and give him the contents, but I did it once and he freaked out about the taste. I read the box where it clearly says “Do not open the capsule”. I really want him to try this medication because it targets ADHD and anxiety disorders, which it seems he may have. We have tried swallowing small candies and vitamins to teach him to swallow pills, but nothing is working. I need some suggestions from Moms who have taught their kids to swallow pills … particularly children who have ADHD or other problems that may make it more difficult to teach them something new. I don’t want to see him regress to having no impulse control and acting out all of the time again, but I can’t let him continue to lose weight so he can’t go back on adderall.
So all of you ADHD Moms out there…how do you get your kids to swallow pills, and what is working for you in managing your child’s ADHD?