There is no magic pill that cures ADHD. Rather there are prongs of treatment that when combined can help manage the unwanted aspects of ADHD. I talk a lot about the non-pharmaceutical treatments both in my ADHD book and on my blog. This article is about prescribed medication.
Prescribed medication for ADHD can be divided into 2 categories. Stimulant and non stimulant.
As stimulant medications are the most effective in treating ADHD (it works for approximately 75% of adults), they are the most prescribed medication and the most studied. It might sound counter intuitive for a person who has ADHD to take a stimulant, however these medications work by blocking dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake. This in turn means hyperactivity and impulsiveness is reduced and attention and the executive functioning of the brain is increased.
The two main types of stimulant medications are
- Amphetamines (such as Adderall and Dexedrine)
- and methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta)
Both are available in short and long acting formulas and different strengths.
Some of the side effects are loss of appetite, insomnia, and an increase in heart rate or blood pressure. People are concerned about becoming addicted to their medication. There is a slight risk, particularly if you aren’t following the prescription recommendations and taking more than prescribed. The risk is a little higher with methamphetamine than Amphetamines or if you have a history of substance abuse.
The other medication option is nonstimulant medication.
Nonstimulant medication isn’t as controversial as people can’t abuse them. Strattera selectively blocks the norepinephrine reuptake pump, which in turn means there is more dopamine in neurons. What this means for the ADHD adult is increased attention and less hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Strattera needs to be taken for at least 4 weeks before benefits can be noticed. This is different to the almost immediate effect that stimulant medications have, but its advantage is that it is present in the blood stream 24/7 and doesn’t wear off as the stimulant meds do.
Side effects can include loss of appetite, insomnia, dry mouth and dizziness. There are also some concerns about potential liver toxicity.
Always work closely with your doctor when taking ADHD medication. Notice and report to them how your medication is helping you and also any side effects you are experiencing.