Are there alternatives to medication for ADHD?

The diagnosis of ADHD does not mean that a medical professional will automatically prescribe non-recreational pharmaceuticals.

Treatment plans will vary depending on the patient’s age, symptoms, health history, and personal circumstances. Do not take any action without first speaking with a medical professional specializing in treating ADHD. You and your doctor only can determine the proper treatment regime.
Although medication is often prescribed for ADHD symptoms, alternative approaches can be successful in conjunction with or in place of medication.

 This article aims to explore some of these alternatives and/or additions to medication.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy/ADHD Coaching for ADHD

In some instances, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be an alternative to medication (with many advantages when medication is indicated) for managing ADHD. CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to ADHD symptoms. This type of therapy helps individuals develop coping strategies and improve executive functioning skills.

ADHD Coaching is for helping individuals in the areas of organization, planning, procrastination, decision-making, completing tasks, time management, implementation, and follow-up and interpersonal relationships.

Support groups for ADHD

Additionally, CBT and/or ADHD Coaching can help individuals develop strategies for managing symptoms.

Research has shown that CBT and/or ADHD Coaching can be effective in reducing ADHD symptoms and improving overall functioning. It is important to note that either or both is not a quick fix and requires time and commitment. However, individuals with ADHD can learn valuable skills to manage their symptoms without relying solely on medication.

Parent training programs for ADHD

Research has also shown that parent training programs can significantly improve child behavior and parent-child and parent-spouse relationships. By empowering parents with the knowledge and skills to manage ADHD symptoms effectively, these programs can possibly reduce the need for medication and improve overall outcomes.   

Parents play a crucial role in supporting children with ADHD. Educating parents about the condition and its management and providing them with strategies to create a structured and supportive environment at home can significantly benefit children with ADHD.

These programs provide parents with the tools and strategies to support their child. They typically include education about ADHD, behavior management techniques, and communication skills.

An effective parent training program also focuses on positive parenting strategies and helps parents develop consistent routines and structure for their children. It also teaches parents to set clear expectations and provide positive reinforcement for desired behaviors. Parent training will also teach you how to deal with spouses, relatives, siblings, camps, and schools.

Adult and parent support groups for ADHD

Support groups allow individuals with ADHD and their families to connect with others facing similar challenges. Sharing experiences, discussing coping strategies, and receiving emotional support can be valuable for managing ADHD.

Educational support for ADHD

Schools can provide accommodations and support services tailored to meet the needs of students with ADHD. These may include preferential seating, extended time on exams, breaks during tasks, or specialized instruction.

Mindfulness and meditation for ADHD

Several studies have suggested that mindfulness and meditation can benefit individuals with ADHD. For example, a study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that mindfulness training led to improvements in ADHD symptoms, including reduced impulsivity and improved attention. 

Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment, while meditation involves focusing attention on a specific object or thought.

These practices can help individuals with ADHD develop greater self-awareness and learn to regulate their attention and emotions. By practicing mindfulness and meditation, individuals can cultivate a sense of calm and improve their ability to stay focused on tasks.

However, more research is needed to fully understand the effectiveness of these practices in managing ADHD.

Exercise and physical activity for ADHD

Regular exercise and physical activity have been shown to have numerous benefits for individuals with ADHD. Exercise helps increase the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which are involved in regulating attention and mood.

A study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that structured exercise programs significantly improved ADHD symptoms, including reduced impulsivity and improved attention. Incorporating regular exercise into the daily routine can be a valuable alternative or complement to medication for managing ADHD.

Physical activity can also help individuals with ADHD release excess energy and reduce hyperactivity. Additionally, exercise has been found to improve executive functioning skills, such as working memory and cognitive flexibility.

Neurofeedback for ADHD

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive technique that aims to train individuals to regulate their brain activity. It involves monitoring brainwave patterns and providing feedback to the individual through visual or auditory signals.

Neurofeedback aims to help individuals with ADHD learn to self-regulate their brain activity and improve attention and impulse control. By providing real-time feedback about their brain activity, individuals can learn to recognize and adjust their brainwave patterns.

Several studies have suggested that neurofeedback can be effective in reducing ADHD symptoms and improving cognitive functioning. However, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of this technique and its effectiveness compared to other interventions. The jury still is out on this one.

Medication for ADHD

Stimulant medications prescribed by a doctor, such as methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin, Concerta) and amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse), are often prescribed to manage symptoms of ADHD. These medications can help improve attention, focus, and impulse control in individuals with ADHD. Non-stimulant medications like atomoxetine (Strattera) or bupropion (Wellbutrin) may also be used. 

The importance of a holistic approach to ADHD management

A holistic approach to ADHD management may involve a combination of therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, ADHD Coaching, parent training programs, mindfulness and meditation practices, regular exercise, and neurofeedback. It also involves addressing the individual’s unique needs and strengths and providing support and education for parents, teachers, and other caregivers.

By taking a holistic approach, individuals with ADHD can develop a toolbox of strategies to manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being effectively. It is essential to work closely with a medical professional or mental health provider to develop an individualized treatment plan that best meets the needs of the individual.


While medication (usually in conjunction with other modalities) is often prescribed for managing ADHD symptoms, there are alternatives that can be used with or as an alternative to medication. Alternative interventions for treating ADHD, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, parent training programs, mindfulness and meditation, exercise, and neurofeedback, may be helpful to you and your doctor.

It is important to remember that each individual with ADHD is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Again, it is also essential to consult with a medical professional or mental health provider before making any changes to a treatment plan. Be an informed advocate for your or your child’s well-being and work with professionals to find the best combination of interventions for managing ADHD symptoms.

Neither this or other articles on this site are intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any medical condition.
The ADD Resource Center * * * +1 646/205.8080

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