The Scientific American recently published an article suggesting that “cognitive and behavioral therapies that help young people reduce impulsivity and cultivate good study habits are costlier and take longer to administer [than ADHD drugs], but may be more efficacious over time”.
The article states;
A new synthesis of behavioral, cognitive and pharmacological findings emerged at the recent Experimental Biology meeting, held last month in San Diego, where experts in ADHD research and treatment gathered to present their work. Their findings suggest that behavioral and cognitive therapies focused on reducing impulsivity and reinforcing positive long-term habits may be able to replace current high doses of stimulant treatment in children and young adults…
Psychologist Claire Advokat of Louisiana State University has been looking at the effects of stimulant medications in college students to see what improves with medication and what does not. As expected, she found that people diagnosed with ADHD had lower grades and ACT (American College Testing) scores; they also dropped more classes than their peers. But she also found that these issues were not improved by stimulant medication treatment.
Instead, Advokat’s new findings indicate that the ADHD students naturally divided into those who had good study habits and those who did not, regardless of treatment. If students had good study habits, they did not need the medication to bolster their grades.
(The full article is available at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=adhd-behavioral-therapy-more-effective-drugs-long-term&WT.mc_id=SA_CAT_MB_20120516 )
Temporarily putting aside concerns with the validity of ADHD as a diagnosable disorder, I welcome the long overdue recognition of what should be obvious. That is, cheap and messy drug interventions may immediately alter behaviour but there are no chemical short cuts to long-term academic success.