Food and Behaviour Research

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Complementary and alternative medicine use in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Sinha D, Efron D. (2005) J Paediatr Child Health. 41(1-2) 23-6. 

Web URL: Licensed users of J Paed Child Health can view the full text of this paper here



The use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) is increasing in the general population. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that has a major impact on children's functioning and has no cure, therefore many families may try CAM at some stage. We aimed to determine (i) the lifetime incidence of CAM use in a clinical sample of children with ADHD; (ii) parents' perceptions of the effectiveness of CAM for ADHD; and (iii) the proportion who informed their paediatrician.


The sample was drawn from patients aged 5-17 years with ADHD attending Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne outpatient clinics from May to September 2003. A 20-item survey was posted to consenting families.


From 105 surveys, 75 were returned (response rate 71.4%). Mean child age was 11.1 (SD 2.9, range 5.0-16.9) years; 65 (86.7%) were boys. Fifty (67.6%) families reported current or past CAM use.

Of the 23 different therapies reported, the most common were modified diet (33 families), vitamins and/or minerals (16), dietary supplements (12), aromatherapy (12) and chiropractics (10). Reported effectiveness was variable. The factors most frequently rated as important in choosing CAM were minimizing symptoms (40 families), adding to the benefit of conventional treatment (30) and avoiding side-effects (29). Thirty-two (64%) of 50 families reported that they informed their paediatrician of their CAM use.


Complementary and alternative medicines are commonly used in children with ADHD. Paediatricians should inquire about the use of CAM, and use available resources to help guide families in their therapeutic choices.