ADHD Drugs

ADHD drugs are often an important part of treatment of ADHD symptoms. These drugs are able to demonstrate dramatic improvement in the common symptoms of ADHD such as hyperactivity, inattentiveness and impulsivity in many patients.

That being said, it is also important to remember that symptoms may not be totally eliminated, learned behaviors may require therapy to change behaviors and learn new ones. In most cases working with your physician, you can achieve noticeable improvement. It is important to keep taking the medication exactly as the doctor prescribed because stopping or skipping medicine can allow symptoms to recur. Be sure to talk to your doctor and let them know about improvement and other effects being seen, such as side effects. In addition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be a great adjunct, for example: exercise, eating healthy, avoiding foods high in sugar and caffeine.

Common Types of ADHD Medication

ADHD medications can be broadly divided into two classes, stimulants and non stimulants. It is important to discuss with your physician their experience with these drugs and how they have helped patients with symptoms similar to your symptoms. Some of the most commons ADHD drugs used are:

  • Ritalin, Ritalin SR, Ritalin LA (methylphenidate)
  • Concerta (methylphenidate)
  • Metadate CD, Metadate CD (methylphenidate)
  • Focalin, Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
  • Methylin, Methylin ER (methylphenidate)
  • Adderall, Adderall XR (combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine)
  • Daytrana (methylphenidate skin patch)
  • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)

Researchers have discovered that Stimulant drugs like methylphenidate and Focalin influence brain chemistry by allowing a surge of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine to be released which facilitate the transmission of signals between neurons. Adderall and Dexedrine are considered amphetamine-type medications which work quickly when ingested and can continue working for five hours helping to reduce ADHD symptoms. Manufacturers have formulated some of these stimulants in an extended release fashion which allows their effectiveness to last up to 10 hours. There are also some formulations available in powder form for children who cannot swallow pills.

Methylin and Ritalin

Methylin and Ritalin are brand names of the drug methylphenidate which is a stimulant. This stimulant drug acts in the area of the brain that is known to control thought and executive function by impacting certain brain neurotransmitters which helps improve attention difficulties and impulsivity of ADHD. Research has shown that combining behavior therapy with any drug treatment can provide better relief of the total symptoms of ADHD better than either drug alone or behavior therapy alone.

Non Stimulant Strattera

As one of the newer ADHD drugs on the market, Strattera is categorized as a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, which means it helps keep more norepinephrine in the brain rather than letting it be released by neuronal synapses. Strattera is not a stimulant, which means Strattera does not show the same risk for drug abuse that stimulant drugs do. Clinical research has shown that effect of Strattera can last up to 24 hours in some individuals with ADHD. All prescription medications can additional effects other than those desired. If those effects are too common or severe the medications never make it onto the market. Strattera is administered in doses which are slowly increased over time to reduce side effects. Some possible side effects seen in individuals who have taken Strattera may include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations
  • Fatigue

Strattera emerged from all the research being done looking into how the brain works, and the identification of specific neuro transmitters and their connection with how the brain works in relation to various mental illnesses. It was discovered that norepinephrine was associated with cognition, energy and the ability of the brain to carry out decision making. It was also discovered that persons who showed signs of ADHD tended to have lower amounts of this neuro transmitter in the areas of the brain controlled attention and activity. Strattera targets only Norepinephrine, and when tested for treating the symptoms of ADHD it was found to be very effective. Strattera has been approved for treatment of ADHD in both adults and children.

Other Non Stimulant ADHD Drugs

  • Intuniv (guanfacine) for use in children aged 6-17
  • Kapvay (clonidine) for use alone or in combination with other agents
  • Catapres and Tenex, anti-hypertensives which help control impulsive and aggressive behavior; and
  • Bupropion, an antidepressant found in such medications as Wellbutrin.

Heart Problems and Some ADHD Medications

All drugs can have potential side effects. No drug should be started in any person before talking to their doctor about the "Risk Benefit" ratio of that drug. The same is true for ADHD drugs. Instances of heart related issues have been reported in patients taking stimulants for ADHD. Although this side effect is uncommon, no child should be given any drug for ADHD before their doctor has given a full physical exam and the chance to rule out any previously unknown heart conditions. The American Heart Association suggests this to include an electrocardiogram before beginning treatment with a drug for ADHD.

Complete Prescribing Information

For complete information on any of these ADHD drugs you should consult with your health care professional. Notes on this page are meant to only provide directional and summary information for you to gain an overview of what is available. To look up a specific medication and its prescribing information type in the name of the drug and add .com.


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