Treatment for ADHD
Treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has two important components — psychotherapy interventions (for both the child and the parents; or the adult with ADHD) and medications. There is a significant amount of research demonstrating that medication alone won’t really help address so many of the core issues a child or adult with ADHD has. So while medication may help with some immediate relief from some of the symptoms, the person with attention deficit disorder still often needs to learn the skills needed to be successful while living with the disorder. In the past, ADHD treatment has typically focused on medications. The specific class of medication most commonly prescribed for ADHD is stimulants. These stimulant medications — like Ritalin (methylphenidate) or Adderall (an amphetamine) — are commonly prescribed, well-tolerated, act quickly (usually soon after a person takes them), and in most people, have few side effects. These medications also have a robust research base supporting their effectiveness in treatment of attention deficit disorder. Children vary a great deal in their response to medication treatments. Finding the combination with the highest efficacy and fewest side-effects is a challenge in every case. A child’s prescribing physician will aim to discover the medication and dose that’s best for your child. If one medication doesn’t appear to be working after a few weeks of treatment, a doctor will often try another medication. This is normal and most people will switch medications to find the one that works best for them at least once. The side effects of stimulants may include reduced appetite, headache, a “jittery” feeling, irritability, sleep difficulties, gastrointestinal upset, increased blood pressure, depression or anxiety, and/or psychosis or paranoia. If any of these symptoms are experienced, then the doctor who prescribed them should be contacted. Many parents may be concerned about having stimulant medications prescribed to their child. This is a typical concern amongst parents, but such medications are not addicting, nor do they produce a “high” in a person with ADHD who takes them. Researchers are still unclear as to why stimulant medications do not “over-stimulate” people who take them, but it is hypothesized that people with ADHD have a problem with certain neurotransmitters in their brain that the medication helps correct. It is unknown exactly why some drugs help some people, but not others, nor the exact mechanism that makes stimulants effective. However, it is known that they work in most people who take them, effectively treating the symptoms of ADHD. Researchers are concerned how a medication such as Ritalin may interfere with normal brain development. However, stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall have been linked to the sudden death of children and adults that had heart conditions. Because these stimulants increase heart rate and blood pressure it is now recommended that physicians have their patients go through a cardio evaluation prior to starting a stimulant to treat ADHD.
Medications Used to Treat ADHD
Stimulant medications commonly prescribed for attention deficit disorder include methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, Methylin) and certain amphetamines (Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Adderall). Methylphenidate is a short acting drug, and in older forms, had to be taken multiple times a day. Longer-acting versions of the drug are now available for once-daily use. Although taking stimulants for treatment may seem risky, there is significant research that demonstrates that when taken as directed, they are safe and effective in the treatment of adult ADHD. Stimulant drugs are often beneficial in curbing hyperactivity and impulsivity, and helping the individual to focus, work, and learn. Sometimes the drugs will also help with coordination problems which may hinder sports and handwriting. Under medical supervision, these...
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