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In children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), formerly known as ADD, medication can help lessen the symptoms of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsivity. However, drugs have dangers and adverse effects, and they’re not the only course of treatment. Finding out the facts about ADHD medications will help you decide what’s best for you or your child, whether you’re the parent or the patient.

The first thing to comprehend is the precise scope of what ADHD drugs can and cannot accomplish. The capacity to concentrate, manage impulses, plan ahead, and follow through on activities may all be improved with the use of ADHD medication. It won’t, however, be a quick answer for all of your or your child’s issues. 

A youngster with ADHD may still experience forgetfulness, emotional issues, and social awkwardness even when the medicine is effective, while an adult with ADHD may experience disorganization, distractibility, and relationship issues. Because of this, it’s crucial to adopt a new lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and enough sleep.

ADHD cannot be cured by medication. While being used, it can reduce symptoms, but after the medicine is stopped, the symptoms return. Some people benefit more than others from ADHD medication, too. 

While some people see significant improvements, others only see moderate improvements. Since each person’s response to ADHD medicine varies and is unpredictable, it should always be tailored to the individual and under strict medical supervision. Without thorough monitoring, ADHD medication is less effective and more dangerous.

ADHD Stimulant Medicines

The most popular form of medication for attention deficit disorder is a stimulant. They have the greatest studies to support their efficacy and the longest history of treating ADHD. Several commonly used medications fall into the stimulant drug category, including Ritalin, Adderall, Focalin, and Dexedrine.

It is thought that stimulants function by raising dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved with motivation, pleasure, attention, and movement. Stimulant medicines help many ADHD sufferers concentrate and focus better while lowering hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.

Short-acting vs. Long-acting Stimulants

There are both short-acting and long-acting stimulants for ADHD. Short-acting stimulants must be taken two to three times daily and reach their peak after several hours. Long-acting or extended-release stimulants typically only need one dose per day and last 8 to 12 hours.

Since persons with ADHD frequently struggle to remember to take their medications, the long-acting varieties of ADHD medicine are frequently favored. One dose per day is much simpler and more practical.

The following are typical stimulant side effects:

  • Feeling jittery and restless
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Uneasy stomach
  • Irritation and mood changes
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Tics

Additionally, stimulant medicines may alter personality. Some persons see a decrease in their spontaneity and ability to communicate. Others start to exhibit obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Many specialists are concerned about the risks of using these ADHD medications for extended periods of time since stimulants increase blood pressure and heart rate.

Worries about the safety of stimulant drugs

The use of stimulant drugs for ADHD raises a variety of safety issues in addition to potential side effects.

Impact on the brain’s development. It is unknown how long-term ADHD drug use will affect young, developing brains. Ritalin use among children and teenagers has some researchers worried that it can impede healthy brain development.

Heart-related issues. Children and adults with cardiac issues have been observed to die suddenly after taking ADHD stimulant drugs. Before beginning a stimulant regimen, the American Heart Association advises that everyone, including children, have a cardiac assessment. If the patient has a history of heart issues, an electrocardiogram is advised.

Psychological issues. Arousal, anger, anxiety, depressive symptoms, and paranoia can all be brought on by or made worse by stimulants for ADHD. People who have experienced suicide, depression, or bipolar disorder themselves or via their families are especially vulnerable and should be closely watched when using stimulants.

Possibility of abuse. Abuse of stimulants is becoming more prevalent, especially among teenagers and young people. Students in college take this medicine to help them focus when studying for exams or working late. Others overuse stimulant medications in order to lose weight. Make sure your youngster isn’t selling or sharing the drugs he or she is taking if they are stimulants.

Drugs that stimulate ADHD are not advised for people who have:

  • Any cardiac condition or problem
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Glaucoma
  • Heightened anxiety
  • A track record of drug use

Anti-stimulant Drugs for ADHD

Strattera, atypical antidepressants, and certain blood pressure meds are some of the additional pharmaceuticals used to treat ADHD in addition to the conventional stimulant prescriptions. Non-stimulant drugs are typically taken into consideration when stimulants have failed or have produced unbearable adverse effects.


The only non-stimulant medicine recognized by the FDA for the treatment of ADHD is Strattera, also referred to by its generic name atomoxetine. Strattera increases the levels of norepinephrine, a distinct brain chemical from stimulants, which impacts dopamine.

Compared to stimulant medications, Strattera has a longer half-life. For people who struggle to get going in the morning, it’s a wonderful alternative because its effects endure for more than 24 hours. It’s also a great option for people who also have anxiety or depression because it has some antidepressant effects. It doesn’t increase tics or Tourette’s Syndrome, which is another benefit.

Strattera, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be as helpful in treating the signs and symptoms of hyperactivity as stimulant drugs.

The following are typical Strattera adverse effects:

  • Sleepiness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach aches or pains in the abdomen
  • Nausea or Diarrhea
  • Mood changes

Although sleeplessness and reduced appetite are possible side effects of Strattera, they are more typical with stimulants.

Alternative Medications

Despite not being FDA-approved for this use, the following drugs are occasionally used “off-label” to treat attention deficit disorder. Only in the absence of effective alternatives like stimulants or Strattera should they be explored.

Medicine for high blood pressure. To treat ADHD For the treatment of ADHD, some blood pressure medicines are available. Clonidine (Catapres) and guanfacine are two options (Tenex). But while these drugs can help with hyperactivity, impulsivity, and aggression, they don’t do as well with concentration issues.

Antidepressants for ADHD. Some antidepressants, which focus on various brain neurotransmitters, may be recommended for persons who have both depression and ADHD. The drug most frequently used is Wellbutrin, also referred to by the generic name bupropion. Both dopamine and norepinephrine are the targets of Wellbutrin. The usage of tricyclic antidepressants is an additional choice.

Making a Decision on the Use of ADHD Medication

Even with all the information, it isn’t always simple to decide whether or not to take ADD/ADHD medication. Don’t make a decision hastily if you’re unsure. Spend some time weighing your possibilities. Include your child in the decision-making process if the drug is for them.

The most essential thing is to follow your gut and do what feels right. If you’re not comfortable with your child taking medicine, don’t let anyone pressure you into doing so, not even your doctor or the principal of your child’s school. Recall that there are other therapy options besides drugs. Medication should be used as a last option and not as the primary line of treatment, especially for young children.

Questions to Ask a Professional in ADHD

You can learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of medication by speaking with a psychiatrist with experience or an ADHD specialist. These are some inquiries to make:

  • What therapies do you suggest for ADHD?
  • Is it possible to treat the symptoms without medicine?
  • What drugs do you suggest, and what side effects might they have?
  • How well do ADHD medications work?
  • How long will the treatment require the medication?
  • What aspects will play a role in the decision to discontinue taking medication?

A Single ADHD Medicine is Insufficient.

It takes more than just going to the doctor and taking medicine to treat attention deficit disorder. There are various strategies to support yourself or your child in overcoming the difficulties of ADHD and living a more relaxed, effective life. 

Many of the symptoms of ADHD are self-manageable with the correct advice and resources. Healthy lifestyle practices and other self-help techniques may allow you to take a lower amount of medicine even if you decide to take it.

Regular exercise. One of the best ways to lessen ADHD symptoms is through exercise. Increased levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain improve focus and attention. Try skating, hiking, dancing, or participating in your preferred activity. Tell your kid to put down the video games and go outside to play.

Adopt a balanced diet. Although nutrition does not directly cause ADHD, it can have an impact on symptoms, mood, and energy levels. Establish regular meal and snack times. Make sure you’re receiving enough zinc, iron, and magnesium while increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

Get lots of rest. The symptoms of ADHD can significantly improve with consistent, high-quality sleep. Simple alterations to daily routines can greatly improve the quality of your nighttime sleep. Set a bedtime and adhere to it. Avoid coffee in the afternoon.

Keep a positive outlook. Your best tools for addressing ADHD are a good attitude and common sense. You are more likely to connect with your needs or those of your child when you are in a positive state of mind.

Go to counseling. Professionals who specialize in ADHD can assist you or your child in changing problematic patterns and learning new coping mechanisms for symptoms. Other therapies teach you how to manage time, hone organizational skills, and persevere in the face of obstacles. Some therapies concentrate on managing stress and anger or restraining impulsive behaviors.

Guidelines for Taking Medications for ADHD

It’s crucial to take the medication exactly as instructed if you want to treat your ADHD with medication. You can optimize the benefits and reduce the hazards of ADHD medication according to your doctor’s and pharmacist’s instructions. Here are some recommendations for secure usage:

Get to know the drug that was prescribed. Learn as much as you can about the ADHD medicine you or your child is taking, including any potential side effects, the recommended dosage, any unique warnings, and any other medications that should be avoided, such as over-the-counter cold remedies.

Be tolerant. It takes some trial and error to find the proper drug and dosage. It will require some trial-and-error and frank discussions with your doctor.

Begin modestly. Always begin with a modest dose and increase it from there. The objective is to identify the lowest dose that can make you or your child feel better.

Observe the effects of the medicine. Keep a close eye on how the drug affects the emotions and conduct of you or your child. Keep a record of any side effects and observe how well the drug is reducing symptoms.

Reduce gradually. Call your doctor for advice on how to gradually reduce the dose if you or your kid wants to stop taking medicine. Unpleasant withdrawal symptoms like irritation, weariness, sadness, and headaches can result from abruptly quitting a medicine.

You Should Discuss ADHD Medication with Your Child.

If your child is taking ADHD medication, make sure that he or she understands how to take the medication properly and why adhering to the prescription guidelines is crucial. Many children and teens with ADHD don’t take their medication correctly or stop taking it without talking to their parents or doctor.

Encourage your child to talk to you if they have any questions or concerns about their medicine so that you can work together to find a solution or a different course of therapy. A child’s energy, curiosity, or excitement should never be dulled by ADHD medication; it’s crucial to keep this in mind. A youngster must still act appropriately for their age.

Managing side effects. The majority of kids and adults who take ADHD medication will encounter at least a few negative effects. After taking a drug for the first few weeks, adverse effects may disappear. With a few straightforward techniques, you might be able to get rid of or lessen undesirable side effects as well.

Decrease in appetite. Eat healthy snacks throughout the day to combat a decreased appetite, and postpone dinner until after the effects of the drug have worn off.

Insomnia. Try taking the stimulant earlier in the day if falling asleep is a problem. You can also try switching to a short-acting stimulant if you or your child is taking an extended-release stimulant. Avoid caffeine-containing beverages as well, especially late in the day or at night.

Headaches or an unsettled stomach. Avoid taking the drug on an empty stomach since this can result in headaches, nausea, and abdominal pain. Changing to a long-acting medicine may help because headaches can also be brought on by medications that are wearing off.

Dizziness. First, get your blood pressure checked or that of your child. You might wish to lower your dose or switch to a long-acting stimulant if it’s usual. Make sure you’re getting enough fluids as well.

Mood swings. Lowering the dose may help if the medicine is producing agitation, depression, or other emotional adverse effects. The rebound effect may also contribute to moodiness; in this situation, overlapping doses or switching to an extended-release drug may be beneficial.

Talk to your doctor about changing the dose or trying a different medication if troublesome side effects continue despite your best attempts to manage them. The long-acting or extended-release versions of ADHD medications, which gradually increase in the bloodstream and then gradually decrease as they wear off, are preferred by many patients. This lessens the ups and downs brought on by varying medication levels and reduces the rebound effect, in which symptoms reappear after the drug wears off, frequently worse than before.

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