An estimated 10 to 20% of children worldwide have one (or more) mental or behavioural problems. There are a variety of treatment options available for children with mental or behavioural disorders though the recommended course of treatment will be unique to the child’s symptoms, diagnosis and parental preferences. Medication for behavioural problems is just one of these options.
Medicating Behavioural Problems
Medicating behavioural disorders means using pharmaceutical drugs to treat the symptoms of the underlying disorder. Stimulants are estimated to be approximately 75% effective in controlling the behaviours associated with common behavioural disorders. These drugs work by stimulating the brain to better able identify and control behaviours relating to attention, activity and impulsivity. One common stimulant used to treat behavioural disorders in children is Ritalin. However, parents must remember that at most, medications can mask some of the behaviours associated with underlying disorders, but that they often can not stop them all, and that if medication is stopped behaviours can return.
Other Treatment Options for Behavioural Problems
Besides medication, there are usually two other main options available for treating children with behavioural problems. Behavioural management is an option in which specialists put together an overall programme of techniques designed to eradicate negative behaviours and replace them with more positive behaviours. Many parents who are apprehensive about medicating children select this option as it allows them to work with their child and watch their growth in their behaviours without introducing pharmaceuticals into the equation. Counselling, either for the child or for the entire family, may also be an option. Counselling allows those involved to discuss their emotions and come to an understanding of their own reactions and behaviours.
Selecting Medication for Behavioural Problems
Parents will not need to select a treatment option on their own as the specialist who is working with their child will almost certainly offer advice and guidance on how best to proceed. Parents should feel free to ask their specialists any questions that they may have regarding medication. Recently there has been a turning of the tide in the public’s support of medicating children with behavioural problems and many parents are worried about the effects that these medications will have on their children in the future. Parents should also notify specialists and pharmacists of any medical conditions that their children have or any medication that they are already taking to limit the possibilities of interactions between drugs.
Deciding whether or not to give their children medication for behavioural problems is a major responsibility for parents and one that should not be taken lightly. Besides understanding how medication will affect their child, parents must understand how the medication will treat the behavioural problems, how often it will need to be administered, how much it will cost, how long it may be needed and what will happen when the child ceases to take it. Parents should also investigate other possible methods of treating behavioural disorders before firmly deciding on any. When they are comfortable with their options, parents should consult their specialist regarding their chosen option. If parents disagree with a specialists’ recommendation, they should feel free to seek a second or even third opinion. At the end of the day parents must feel comfortable with their decisions and be sure that they are doing what they feel is best for their child.