6 Things You Should Know About ADHD Medication
The most common treatment for ADHD, in both children and adults, is stimulant medication, such as Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall. While there are other types of medications, stimulants are often the first line of treatment. Even so, many people have questions and concerns about taking these medications.
Whether you – or your child – is already taking medication or you are looking for information to help you decide whether medication is right for you, the following are 6 things you should know about stimulant medications.
Medication is not a cure for ADHD.
Medications can help decrease your symptoms and help you better manage the symptoms you have. For example, you may find you don’t get distracted as easily or you may find it easier to follow through on daily tasks. But medications for ADHD only last as long as they are in your system, usually between 4 and 12 hours, depending on the specific medication you are taking. Once the medication wears off, your symptoms will return.
Each person reacts differently.
It would seem that if Ritalin works well for one person with ADHD it would work well for everyone, but that isn’t necessarily true. Some people may find Ritalin works well while others find that Adderall is the best medication for them. You can’t decide that you want to try a medication because your friend found it helped them focus. Unfortunately, finding the best medication, and the best dosage, can be a matter of trial and error and it can sometimes take several months to find what is best for you.
Stimulant medications can have side effects.
Just like the effectiveness of medications, each person may experience different degrees of side effects. Many people take stimulant medications without experiencing any, or only mild, side effects. Some of the common side effects include feeling restless, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, headaches, irritability, racing heartbeat. It is important to keep track of any side effects you, or your child, may experience, and talk to your doctor if your side effects are interfering with your daily life.
Medication works best when combined with other treatments.
Most doctors will recommend a multi-modal approach to treating ADHD. This means that non-medication treatments, such as therapy or behavioral interventions are included in your treatment plan. For example, behavioral strategies such as charts, to-do lists or reminder systems can help manage symptoms. Many people find that using medications help to follow through with different strategies and techniques that can be used throughout their lives.
Medication is not right for everyone.
Most individuals with ADHD are helped by medications. Around 75 to 80 percent of those with ADHD report reduced symptoms when taking medication. But that means 20 to 25 percent may not fare as well. For some, side effects are severe making it impossible to take medication. Others may find that stimulant medications interfere with treatment for other health conditions. Even so, the majority of people find symptom relief from medications.
When starting medications, you should see your doctor frequently.
When first starting medications, it is important to work closely with your doctor. Usually your doctor will start you, or your child, on the lowest possible dose and slowly increase as needed. Your doctor may want to see you, or your child, every few weeks to see how the medication is working, monitor any side effects and determine if the dosage should be increased. It is important for you to keep track of behaviors during this time and share this information with your doctor.
While many people benefit from stimulant medications, not everyone does. Strattera is a non-stimulant medication approved for the treatment of ADHD. If these medications don’t work, some high blood pressure medications and antidepressants are prescribed “off-label” for those that don’t tolerate stimulants or have other medical problems that make it impossible to take ADHD medications. If you are considering medications, you don’t need to rush into your decision. Take time to research the medications, learn about the side effects and talk with your doctor about the benefits and the risks of using these medications.
“ADHD Medications, An Overview,” Date Unknown, Glen R. Elliott, Ph.D., M.D., Kate Kelly, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
“Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” Updated 2013, June 21, Harvey Simon, M.D., University of Maryland Medical Center