01.03.2021 Holistic Health

Non-drug option for ADHD treatment

European research points to lasting success of non-drug treatment for children with ADHD

A recent study is holding out hope of long term benefits from a neurological therapy in place of standard drug approaches to treating children with ADHD.

The study in the medical journal European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry shows the therapy, Neurofeedback, has long-term positive effects in children with ADHD.

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive therapy, which is used to train brain activity, visualising EEG waves on a computer screen via electrodes. This has been shown to help reduce symptoms of ADHD in children, particularly inattention and hyperactivity. However, scientists have debated whether the reported effects are long lasting and a viable alternative to prescribing children with medications.

In this latest study, researchers compiled data of more than 500 children with ADHD comparing the results of Neurofeedback, with medications and “non-active” (no treatment) conditions. To critically interpret the data, researchers with different views on the therapy were selected to contribute to the study.

They found that Neurofeedback had sustainable effects in the longer term, with positive and large effects observed after six months of treatment.

Importantly, the findings also showed the effects of the treatment tended to improve over time with no ongoing therapy sessions needed after the initial program, compared to the group which was still taking medication at the six month follow up.

According to Dr. Martijn Arns, a member of the research team from Research Institute Brainclinics in The Netherlands, the results show the therapy is a viable treatment option for children with ADHD.

“This meta-analysis shows that after an average of six months, Neurofeedback has a similar efficacy compared to active treatments, including medication, opening the option to use medication more for short-term symptom relief, and using Neurofeedback to achieve more longer-term benefit in ADHD, with the added benefit of there being almost no side effects,” said Dr Arns.

These results relate to evidence-based Neurofeedback methodologies (ie Slow Cortical Potentials Training, Sensorimotor Rhythm Training and Theta/Beta Training), and cannot be generalised to all forms of Neurofeedback.

The long-term efficacy of the approach offers a potential alternative to standard drug treatments with psychostimulant medications such as Ritalin, commonly prescribed to children or adolescents diagnosed with ADHD.

Prior research has shown the effects of medications tend to decrease after two years of use and may induce various side effects such as anxiety, nausea and negative effects on sleep.

Neurofeedback is a non-pharmacological approach, which, in the last 10 years, has gained more and more interest for its potential as an effective and short-term intervention, which is not found to have any severe side effects.