'I refuse to medicate my child for ADHD.' What experts want you to know about that decision.

If you're a parent of a child or teenager who has been diagnosed with ADHD, please take a seat. Because chances are you've heard this question being thrown around before: 'Should your child be on medication?'

And look, the decision to put your child on medication for ADHD is a very personal one. But what do you do if you and your partner don't agree on it?

On a recent episode of Mamamia's Help! I Have A Teenager podcast, expert hosts psychologist Jo Lamble and GP Ginni Mansberg answered just that when they shared their thoughts during this week's 'listener dilemma'. 

Kim told our experts her 13-year-old son has been diagnosed with anxiety and inattentive ADHD, and prescribed medication. She shared that he's also dealing with low self-esteem and body image issues.

She said: "My husband strongly opposes medicating kids while their brains are still developing. He doesn't believe in ADHD and thinks it's wrong to diagnose and medicate every other kid. I'm also hesitant, but if medication can improve his school experience and learning outcomes, I think we should give it a try."

"That being said, how can I support my son without relying solely on medication? My husband is open to him seeing a psychologist for talk therapy. Do you have any other suggestions?"

Listen to this week's episode of Help! I Have a Teenager. Post continues below.

"I'm gonna say something really controversial here," said Ginni. 

"Paediatricians who diagnose these things do this with at least 12 years of postgraduate experience after a medical degree."


"Paediatric exams are incredibly onerous, and the volume of research suggests that ADHD is in fact a real condition. And that sets out rigorous diagnostic criteria for the diagnosis of ADHD."

"While I think that there is some evidence that certainly in the past there has been an over-prescription of medication, that's really been tightened up now."

These days medications that have been authorised by peak government bodies in this country, and around the world, have been shown to have a very long history of safety and efficacy.

If a paediatrician has diagnosed a child with this condition and prescribed this medication, Ginni said this is the best form of action you can take.

"If your husband is simply not open to considering the views of a very well-credentialed doctor, I'm just concerned that the entire conversation is dead and you're not going to go there anymore."

"I'm concerned for your son, because I want him, like you do, to have the best possible adolescence and the best possible future."

"I'm wondering whether you could maybe do some couples counselling or find some other way of communicating with your husband — perhaps just having a conversation with a paediatrician — to help him understand that ADHD diagnosis is not a religion."

"It's not whether you believe in it or you don't believe in it. There's science behind this, and I'm concerned that your son might not have all of the options available to him," said Ginni.

Jo also agreed that ADHD medication is not necessarily a medication that is "dished out to every second kid" — in fact, it's actually very difficult to prescribe.


When it comes to psychology and "talk therapy", she said anxiety is something that a psychologist can certainly help with — and recommends seeking help.

"A psychologist can explain anxiety to your son, what it is and how to manage it," she said. "That's why these labels can be so helpful — they're not dished out willy-nilly."

"Psychologists can also help maybe boost your son's self-esteem and address some of the body image issues using cognitive behaviour therapy, or schema therapy. This is where they can learn to identify the voice that is telling them they're not good enough or they don't look good enough, and learn how to reason with that voice."

"A psychologist can help with ADHD but not in terms of medication — just in terms of some strategies and the impact on self-esteem and all the things that can go along with it."

However, by learning a set of strategies to manage anxiety — things like calming breathing and focusing exercises — Jo said this may also help with inattentive ADHD.

As Ginni adds, "Thirteen is a really important year for him. I don't believe that time is a healer, and I think that leaving this situation unhelped and untreated — not necessarily by drugs but if it's untreated altogether — that can do a lot of harm to kids."

What do you think about ADHD medication for teenagers? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Feature Image: Getty. 

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