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Medicines for ADHD

Information

ADHD is a problem that most often affects children. People with ADHD may have problems with:

  • Being able to focus
  • Being over-active
  • Not being able to control behavior

Medicines can help improve symptoms of ADHD. Talk or behavioral therapy can also help.You should work closely with your health care providers to ensure that the treatment plan is successful.

TYPES OF MEDICINES

Stimulants are the most commonly used type of ADHD medicine. Some medicines are taken more than one time per day, while others are taken only once per day. Your health care provider will decide which medicine is best.

Know the name and dose of each medicine you take.

FINDING THE RIGHT MEDICINE AND DOSAGE

It is important to work with your health care provider to make sure the right medicine is given at the right dose.

Always take your medicine the way it was prescribed. Talk to your doctor if a medicine is not controlling symptoms, or if you are having side effects. The dose may need to be changed, or a new medicine may need to be tried.

MEDICINE TIPS

Some medicines for ADHD wear off over the day. Taking them before going to school or work may allow them to work when you need them the most. Your health care provider will advise you on this.

Other tips are:

  • Refill your medicine before it runs out.
  • Ask your health care provider whether your medicine should be taken with food or when there is no food in the stomach.
  • Do not reduce your dose to save money. If you are having problems paying for medicine, talk with your health care provider. There may be programs that provide medicines for free or at a lower cost.

SAFETY TIPS FOR MEDICINE

Learn about the side effects of each medicine. Ask your health care provider what to do in case of side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you or your child notices side effects such as:

  • Stomach pain
  • Problems falling or staying asleep
  • Eating less or weight-loss
  • Tics or jerky movements
  • Mood changes
  • Unusual thoughts
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren't there
  • Fast heart beat

Do not use supplements, herbal remedies or street drugs without checking with your health care provider. They may cause your ADHD medicines to not work as well.

Check with your health care provider to find out whether any other medicines should not be taken at the same time as ADHD medicines.

MEDICINE TIPS FOR PARENTS

Regularly reinforce with your child the doctor's treatment plan. Teach your child that these medicines can help him or her feel better and do better in school.

Children with ADHD often forget to take their medicines. Have your child set up a system, such as using a pill organizer. This can help him or her to remember to take medicine.

Keep a close watch on possible side effects. Ask your child to tell you about any side effects, but be aware that your child may not understand when he or she is having side effects. Call the health care provider right away if your child has any side effects.

Be aware of possible drug abuse. Stimulant-type ADHD medicines can be dangerous in high doses. To ensure your child uses medicines safely:

  • Talk to your child about the dangers of drug abuse.
  • Teach your child not to share or sell their medicines.
  • Monitor your child's medicines closely.

References

Pliszka S. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Work Group on Quality Issues. Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007;46:894-921.

Prince JB, Spencer TJ, Wilens TE, Biederman J. Pharmacotherapy of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder across the life span. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 49.

Updated: 3/24/2013

David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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