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Purpose of review: Despite effectiveness of medication in treating children and young people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), concerns about the effects of medication on children's developing brains, adverse side-effects, possibility of long-term use, and compliance issues have all contributed to the continuing search for alternative therapies. This article reviews the latest scientific evidence of the effectiveness and safety of these treatments in ADHD.

Recent findings: Although there is evidence from a large randomized controlled study that neurofeedback has positive effects on reducing children's symptoms of ADHD, most recent randomized controlled trials have generally yielded negative results. Some positive results exist from a pilot study of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. However, the sample size was far too small to enable any conclusions to be drawn about the evidence. Findings from the recent randomized controlled trials of supplements of essential fatty acids in children who have ADHD clearly demonstrated lack of superiority compared with placebo.

Summary: Notwithstanding efforts made to increase the scientific rigor of previous studies, more recent studies have generally been unsuccessful in demonstrating adequate treatment effects of complementary medicine on children who have ADHD. Currently, there is no proof that complementary medicine provides a better alternative for children who have ADHD than treatments that are currently available within multimodal therapy.

(C) 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.