Medications for ADHD

The information provided below is intended to provide basic information about mental health medications. It is not a complete source for all medications available and should not be used as a guide for making medical decisions.

Stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy, as well as elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. Stimulant medications are often prescribed to treat children, adolescents, or adults diagnosed with ADHD.

Stimulants used to treat ADHD include:

• Methylphenidate- Ritalin, Concerta (the difference between these two molecules is the way they are produced as well as the duration of effect, Ritalin comes in fast acting (10mg once or twice a day) as well as a slow release formulation (Ritalin LA 10-40mg) and Concerta which is a prolonged release formulation at dosages of 18 to 54mg) 

• Straterra (10-80mg) which is a non-stimulant medications may be tried first in a young person with ADHD, and if response is insufficient, then a stimulant is prescribed. 

Stimulants can also be prescribed to treat other health conditions, including narcolepsy, and occasionally depression (especially in older or chronically medically ill people and in those who have not responded to other treatments).

How do people respond to stimulants?

Prescription stimulants have a calming and “focusing” effect on individuals with ADHD. Stimulant medications are safe when given under a doctor's supervision. Some children taking them may feel slightly different or "funny."

Some parents worry that stimulant medications may lead to drug abuse or dependence, but there is little evidence of this when they are used properly as prescribed. Additionally, research shows that teens with ADHD who took stimulant medications were less likely to abuse drugs than those who did not take stimulant medications.

What are the possible side effects of stimulants?

Stimulants may cause side effects. Most side effects are minor and disappear when dosage levels are lowered. The most common side effects include:

• Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

• Loss of appetite

• Stomach pain

• Headache

Less common side effects include:

• Motor tics or verbal tics 

• Personality changes, such as appearing “flat” or without emotion

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