No Long-Term Benefit Of ADHD Meds

no benefit to ADHD meds, alternatives to ritalin,


Want to cause a ruckus? Criticize attention-deficit meds.


Over three million U.S. kids take these drugs. Parents may not be thrilled to dose their children but they are following expert advice.  They typically see results. And they don’t need to be judged.


But it helps to pay attention to what works for parents who don’t  put or keep their kids on meds. My son was diagnosed with ADD when he was in first grade.  There was a great deal of pressure from his teacher to put him on medication. As many parents do, I struggled to find ways to alleviate the problem without drugs. We found significant improvement when we changed his diet but that wasn’t enough to make the school setting truly work for him. The way he learned best and the way he flourished simply didn’t fit in the strictures of the school environment. He wasn’t wired to sit still and pay attention for hours. Once we began homeschooling we discovered that without classroom and homework pressure, what appeared to be ADD symptoms largely disappeared.


The newest studies of attention-deficit disorder medications now indicate that the calming effect of these drugs don’t necessarily indicate that those who take them have any sort of “brain deficit.”  As L. Alan Sroufe, professor emeritus of psychology at the Universityof Minnesota’s Instituteof Child Development explains,  such medications have a similar effect on all children as well as adults. “They enhance the ability to concentrate, especially on tasks that are not inherently interesting or when one is fatigued or bored, but they don’t improve broader learning abilities.”


Research shows the effect wanes in a few years without conferring any lasting benefit. Dr. Sroufe writes,


To date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems, the very things we would most want to improve.


While Dr. Sroute looks for a mental health answer, I think it’s a much bigger issue. It asks us to look at how today’s children are restricted in movement, have less time for free play, and are exposed to unnecessarily early academics.  It asks us to look at the quality of the air, water, and food in the lives of today’s children. It asks us to support all families as they are, recognizing that one-size-fits-all guidelines don’t embrace diverse ways of being. To me, particular hope lies in research showing that free time spent playing in natural settings significantly improved the behavior and focus of ADHD children. The more natural and wilderness-like the area, the greater the improvement.


Our wonderfully distractible, messy, impulsive children may be trying to tell us something.


For more answers beyond the prescription bottle, check out:


Ritalin Nation: Rapid-Fire Culture and the Transformation of Human Consciousness


The Gift of ADHD: How to Transform Your Child’s Problems into Strengths


Dreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos: How to Help the Child Who Is Bright, Bored and Having Problems in School (Formerly Titled ‘The Edison Trait’)


ADHD Without Drugs – A Guide to the Natural Care of Children with ADHD ~ By One of America’s Leading Integrative Pediatrician


Is This Your Child?


Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the 6 Types of ADD




About Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is a writer, editor, conflict resolution educator, and marginally useful farm wench. She is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives with her family on Bit of Earth Farm. Check out life on the farm at and keep up with Laura’s relentless optimism at


2 thoughts on “No Long-Term Benefit Of ADHD Meds”

  1. My 14yo son has never been to school. He has had plenty of opportunity for unrestricted movement, free play, including outdoors in nature, and unschooling-inspired academics tailored to his needs. He eats mostly whole foods, clean well water, avoiding fluoride, we use only natural cleaners around the home.

    We tried supplements, diet changes, pressure vests, time management helpers etc etc. His ADHD symptoms did not “largely disappear” until we started meds when he was 12.

    He was more than merely “distractible, messy, and impulsive”. He was just not *there*. So wild and out of control much of the time, that he couldn’t even focus in enough to do the things he truly *wanted* to do — which is generally true of most so-called ADHD kids (ie, that they can indeed ‘hyperfocus’ on their interests)

    So I have come around to believe that there are a great many kids out there who are, just as you describe, merely a poor fit for the school system, and victims of poor diet and lack of outdoor time. But there are also kids who have a legitimate brain issue — to me it’s similar to diabetics who don’t make their own insulin and need to take it to maintain proper balance. These kids, like my son, who were quite unable to live any kind of ‘normal’ life (not even considering “school”) without medication. I think these kids are a minority, but they do exist, and should not be thrown out with the bathwater when dismissing ADHD treatments.

    And therefore I believe that studies like this that show no long-term benefits are primarily referring to the ‘drugged to be in school’ subset. Which I totally and completely agree with. But the change in my son in the past 2 years has been nothing short of miraculous. He is still impulsive, messy, and distractible. But he is now also extremely talented, successful, and able to focus and work at something he’s interested in. He has not just blossomed, he has EXPLODED, as though making up for lost time. He has found passions and pursues them doggedly. And whereas most kids on ADHD meds report that they feel focused but not ‘themselves’, and often take med vacations when not in school, my son almost right away said “I finally feel like myself” and takes his meds every single day, every weekend and all summer. Just to *function*.

    What I would dearly love to see is a proper division of the different degrees of ADHD-type impairment. I strongly suspect that then the studies would show no long-term benefits for the less serious cases, but significant help for the more extreme cases.

  2. I’m glad we live in a time when medications are available and enough information is out there to make discerning choices. I’m really glad you shared your experience, especially to help guide other parents searching for answers. I hope I made clear at the beginning of this piece, those who find results on medication do not need to be judged. It sounds like a great fit for your son.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>