Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dangers of Untreated ADHD

Usually ADHD is treated with a combination of treatments, these can include prescription/natural medication, behavior therapy/modification, regular counseling/therapy, diet etc. It is very important if your child has ADHD to talk to a professional to see what treatment(s) are best for him/her. You can talk to your child's pediatrician, a psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist and other mental health professionals. Most parent's of ADHD children do search for treatments of some kind.

Untreated ADHD can be very dangerous for your child in so many ways. Treating your child's ADHD can make a huge difference in their success in school, behavior, development and overall the outcome of their life's success.
I know this may seem like I am being a bit extreme to some of you, but, ADHD affects numerous aspects of your child's life and it often comes along with other coinciding diagnoses such as ODD, depression, anxiety, OCD, sleep disorders, learning disabilities and if your child's ADHD is treated correctly it can actually relieve these other diagnoses symptoms or even make them go away. 
If a child's ADHD is untreated it can make a prodigious impact on the child's future. Some children with ADHD can experience a diminishing of their symptoms,like hyperactivity, as they enter adulthood. However, 50-60% of children with ADHD will continue to have it through adulthood, and continue to struggle with inattention and impulsiveness. Most children with ADHD will grow to adults with ADHD.

So, what are the actual Dangers of not treating ADHD? 

Self Medicating/Drug Use and Alcoholism- One of the most dangerous results of untreated ADHD is alcoholism and drug abuse. Studies have shown that alcoholism and substance abuse are more common among people with untreated ADHD. A study also showed that adult alcoholics without ADHD took their first drink when they were about 14yrs old, and alcoholics with untreated ADHD took their first drink much earlier at about 12yrs of age. (That is around my sons age and I couldn't imagine that!) 

As for the substance abuse, children or adults with untreated ADHD can have depression, anxiety and other related diagnoses that will become worse if not treated. So, in an attempt to self medicate for these as well as their ADHD, children with untreated ADHD are likely to turn to prescription (not theirs) or over the counter drugs and even street drugs ans the impulsive, risk taking behavior common with ADHD  only reinforces this.

When I was working with MH/MR individuals, I was often at the Excela Health Latrobe, PA hospitals mental health department which is also an alcohol and substance abuse treatment program both in and out patient. I had talked to a psychiatrist, Dr. Frederick Schultz, who told me that most people who come in with a cocaine habit is diagnosed with ADHD that has been untreated. Dr. Schultz explained that even though cocaine is an "upper" or "speed" drug, it acts the opposite with ADHD individuals and actually calms them down and helps them  maintain their ADHD and once their ADHD is treated they no longer feel the need for the cocaine. So, in a way they are "self medicating" using street drugs. 

Trouble with the Law-  Children with ADHD, as you know, are impulsive and inattentive. They often don't think before they act and/or don't think about the consequences of their actions. Also, as I noted above children with ADHD can also have ODD which is usually a defiance to authority figures such as parents, teachers, and police. (Read my ADHD/ODD article) So, if the child's ADHD is not treated they are more likely to get into trouble with the law. 

A study has shown that more than 40% of the current prison population has ADHD that is likely to have not been noticed or treated. So, imagine what the prison population or their lives with be like if their ADHD had been diagnosed and treated. Their lives could have been so much different and better.

Lower School/Career Achievement- ADHD children are often also faced with learning disabilities or delays. These learning issues along with the inattention and impulsive behavior make ADHD children struggle and need more help in school. If a child's ADHD is not being treated this can severely effect their school success and achievements and overall their career and life path. If your child isn't learning correctly this will affect him/her in various aspects of their entire life. Children with ADHD that is being treated and receiving help has a far better chance of success than those who have ADHD that is untreated. Children with untreated often can't finish what they start, fail to think things through, and have trouble making decisions. 

Decades of research and studies have shown that children with untreated ADHD struggle to become productive citizens and have a harder time holding jobs when adults.

Social and Relationship Problems- If you have a child with ADHD you probably already understand the social strain they can go through. ADHD children often feel like they don't fit in, or are left out because of their impulsiveness and inattention. ADHD children often talk and move a lot and this may bother other children. When the child's ADHD is untreated these behaviors can increase and become worse, causing them to have more trouble making friends and when adults they can have troubles keeping a relationship or marriage and/or raising children. If your child has untreated ADHD they will lack their social skills.

More Injuries, Accidents and Car Accidents- Children with untreated ADHD are at a higher risk of injuries and ER visits due to their impulsive and risk taking behaviors. These untreated children will often take more risks and do more dangerous stunts, not to mention the possibility of drug overdoses from self medicating and drug addictions. 

Due to an ADHD child, teenager, or adult's lack of focus, distractibility and lack of concentration, if untreated these individuals become at a high risk of car accidents and traffic violations when old enough to drive.

It is extremely important to make sure that if your child has ADHD to talk to a professional and find the best treatment(s) for him/her. This will help your child be a successful student and adult. Treating your child's ADHD will give them the tools they need to have a successful career, marriage, family, and life. I know that we all worry about putting your child on medications and the risks of it, and despite arguments over the over-diagnosis and over medicating of ADHD you also need know and worry about he potential risks of not treating the child's ADHD. There are many treatment options that I have mentioned above.

I would like to end this article with a quote from Steven Kurtz, PhD. at the Child Mind Institute's article "The Cost of Not Treating ADHD in Children"
"We know that many psychiatric disorders are treated more easily in childhood, giving us a window of opportunity to drastically change the lives of young people. With treatment these kids can learn to control impulsivity, do well in school and have better relationships with their families and the families they would like to form as adults. As long as we continue to deprive our youth of the mental health care they need, we are sabotaging our own future as well as theirs. We need their talents, ingenuity and intelligence, we need them to step up and become our nations entrepreneurs, engineers and political leaders." 


  1. I'm glad I read this... for the past year I had been putting off gettting my son tested for ADHD, till I read similar articles and decided I really wasnt doing anyone favors by not opening my eyes to ADHD. its just the medication that i am still wary about, I guess I will learn more and then decide

  2. Child ADHD InfoMay 8, 2012 at 8:21 PM

    Anonymous, I have a couple article on ADHD they may help you learn more about them. there are natural ADHD medications and other treatments such as therapy. Please visit articles and over the articles in my blog to learn more about Child ADHD and treatments,also visit my Facebook page

  3. That's made me feel so much better about my choice of giving my 6yr old son Ritalin I also can relate to this article on a personal level as I believe i also have Adhd and my mum but I can not find any phychiatrist in Perth that will deal with adult adhd as most are not licensed to prescribe the medication but I suffer from all adhd symptoms especially hyperactivity and extreme impulsiveness I can not relax and am always racing inside. I believe that the adhd is what causes both my mum and my anxiety and trichiltilomania.