May 20


​Limits & Benefits of Medication

​A major obstacle to treatment for hyperactivity and attention deficits is the refusal of people or a key figure in their lives (parent, teacher, or spouse) to accept the diagnosis. They may think that labels of ADHD and ADD are excuses for laziness, the wrong values, or not trying hard enough. Even if this hurdle is passed, there may be resistance to the use of drugs. Making the decision to take medication and measuring its effectiveness stands a much better chance with a full understanding of its limits and benefits:  

Limits and Benefits

Medication Can Help


Social Skills

Medication Does Not Help

  • Improve achievement test scores.
  • ​Improve comprehension.
  • Improve visual memory and handwriting.
  • Replace core skills missed in the past.
  • Change defeatist attitudes.
  • Correct learning disabilities (but may improve attention for special instruction).
  • Supply the will to conform or comply.

(Table adapted from  Beyond Retalin by Stephen Garber, Marianne D. Garber, and Robyn F. Spizman (Harper Perennial, 1994). Starred items are not true in all cases.)


In mild cases, self-monitoring may eliminate the need for medication; with more difficult problems, it can pick up where medication leaves off. Self-
ratings of behavior can be compared with that of a buddy or coach who has good organizational and social skills and is capable of being objective and positive. In turn, people with ADD can rate buddies who serve as models for appropriate behavior. Learning internal dialogues is also important—“I stayed on task”; “I did what I said I’d do.” It is best to work on one area at a time.

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