dr. william holmes

Question:

How long will children need to take medication? I hate the thought of my children being on medication until they are well into their adult years, but if they are taking it due to a chemical imbalance then won’t they always have a chemical imbalance? 

Answer: 

Your question is a good one. The simple answer is, “It depends,” but obviously there is more to it than that. Basically, the length of time that medications need to be used havs to do with two main factors.

First, there is the basic question of whether the need for medications continues to be present. If a child continues to display significant emotional and behavioral problems, and if these difficulties can be potentially helped by medications, then the continued use of medications needs to be considered. A related question has to do with what other strategies are being used to support the child, and whether these other treatments are providing benefit. For example, the use of various individual, group, and family therapies can be very helpful for children. Sometimes, other supportive strategies in the environment can also provide benefit. It is not unusual to get the best benefit from the use of medications in combination with other treatments.

The second factor has to do with whether there is a strong enough benefit from medications to justify their use. This is always looked at relative to any potential risks or side effects from medications. We know that some people, children included, can display enough improvement over time that medications become less necessary. Also, the opposite can occur as well. That’s why it’s so important for children who are taking medications to be monitored on a regular basis. This monitoring needs to include consistent communication between the provider, child, and responsible adult(s) so that consistent, high-quality decisions can be made.

So, medications are not always used “forever.” However, the length time depends on good, consistent monitoring with a provider who knows what he/she is doing.

Dr. Holmes welcomes all medical questions related to your foster children.  Please send all questions to askdrholmes@nfpaonline.org.

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