ADD or ADHD Medications

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What are the different types of ADD or ADHD drugs?

The types of ADHD medicines include stimulants and nonstimulants. Some medications that usually treat depression have been found to be helpful in treating some people with ADHD as well. Stimulant medications include methylphenidate and its derivatives, like Ritalin, Methylin and Metadate (methylphenidate) and Ritalin-LA, Focalin, Metadate-CD, Daytrana and Concerta (extended-release methylphenidate). It also includes amphetamine derivatives like dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), combination amphetamine and dextroamphetamine salts (Adderall), and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse).

Nonstimulant medications used in the treatment of ADHD symptoms include atomoxetine (Strattera), guanfacine (Tenex or Intuniv), and clonidine (Catapres or Kapvay), as well as medications that are used primarily in the treatment of depression or anxiety, including bupropion (Wellbutrin) and venlafaxine (Effexor).

What are the differences among the ADHD drugs?

In addition to the chemical differences among ADHD medications just described, there are differences in how long the effects of a dose of medication lasts and how they are taken. The length of time a dose of medication can last ranges from about two to four hours as with Ritalin, four to six hours as with Adderall or Dexedrine, 10-12 hours with Focalin-XR and Concerta, and up to 12-13 hours with Vyvanse.

Ways of giving ADHD drugs have increased. While medications to treat this disorder used to come only in pill form, there is now the option of the methylphenidate patch (Daytrana) and Catapres topical patches for children, teenagers, or adults who have trouble swallowing. Methylphenidate (Quillivant-XR) and Methylin liquid are two liquid forms of stimulant medications and have received FDA approval to treat ADHD.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/21/2015

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