Your Complete Guide to ADHD Medication
If you've been recently diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or know someone who has been – you're most likely looking for ways to treat and manage ADHD symptoms with medication.
If you are considering putting someone you love, or even yourself, on ADHD medication, this guide covers everything you could ever want to know about ADHD medication.
In this article, you will find information on:
- What types of ADHD medications are there?
- Is it best to treat ADHD medication with or without medication?
- How to treat ADHD without medication.
What Is ADHD Medication?
There are two main types of ADHD medication: stimulants and non-stimulants. Stimulant and non-stimulant medication help manage ADHD symptoms.
What Is ADHD Stimulant Medication?
For stimulant medication, there are 2 classes, methylphenidate, and amphetamine. (I’ll show you how to pronounce them in a moment.)
Your body will have a preference for one over the other, which you learn through trial and error testing.
Both classes of stimulants increase dopamine in the brain. Dopamine helps you control your actions and thinking in general. As a bonus, it also makes you feel happy.
Fun fact: Anytime you feel happy, it’s because dopamine levels in your brain increased.
Methylphenidate Stimulant Medications
Medications containing Methylphenidate include:
- Ritalin. Comes in any form you could ask for. Takes 30 minutes or so to start working and last between three and four hours.
- Focalin. Almost identical to Ritalin.
- Concerta. This is one of the longest-acting methylphenidate medications on the market, lasting eight to twelve hours. You can’t chew or open Concerta. You have to swallow it, otherwise, the medication won’t work.
- Ritalin LA and Metadate CD. These medications come in the form of a capsule and both last six to eight hours. For kids who can’t swallow pills, you can open up the capsule and sprinkle it on food (try yogurt or applesauce).
- Aptensio XR and Focalin XR. Both come in capsules and last eight to twelve hours. You can also break these up and mix them with food.
- Quillivant XR. A liquid form of methylphenidate. Perfect for people who don’t like swallowing pills and tasting beads. Lasts eight to twelve hours.
- Quillichew ER. A chewable form of methylphenidate lasting up to eight hours.
- Daytrana. This type of medication is methylphenidate in a patch. You can wear for up to nine hours. It takes roughly an hour or two to start working. Lasts six to eight hours.
Amphetamine Stimulant Medications
As far as ingredients go, it’s the same as Methylphenidate but more addictive and popular as a street drug. Medications containing Amphetamine include:
- Adderall. Comes in a tablet or capsule, lasts about four hours.
- Evenko. Same as Adderall, except it comes in a tablet and has a different chemical makeup.
- Dexedrine. Identical to Adderall, except it contains a purer form of amphetamine.
- Adderall XR. A version of Adderall lasting 10 to 12 hours. Comes in a capsule filled with beads.
- Vyvanse. Amphetamine mixed with a chemical called Lysine. It lasts up to 14 hours and is the longest lasting stimulant I know of.
- Dynavel XR. A liquid form of Amphetamine lasting 10 to 12 hours.
- Adzenys XR-ODT. Comes in a tablet that dissolves in your mouth. It typically lasts 10 to 12 hours.
Side Effects of Amphetamine and Methylphenidate
Reported common side effects of amphetamine and methylphenidate medication include:
- Weight loss
- Disruption of growth (in children)
- Increased anxiety
- Higher heartbeat
- Increased blood pressure
- Dry mouth
While all types of medication carry risks, the rarer side effects of these type of medications may include addiction, heart attack, stroke, psychosis (i.e., hearing voices that aren’t there), and skin rashes.
Are There Any Long-Term Side Effects of ADHD Medication?
The long-term side effects of stimulant medications on developing brains are unknown.
Increased anxiety is a noteworthy side effect. According to CHADD, Up to 50 percent of adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder, and should not take stimulant medication unless they want their anxiety to get worse.
Countless studies, such as the MTA study, have proven stimulants are the most effective way to treat ADHD. But up to 30 percent of all ADHDers don’t see any improvement when taking stimulant medication.
When that’s the case, whatever specialist you see can prescribe a non-stimulant medication.