- What Are They?
- Types of Medications
- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
ADD or ADHD medications facts
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (often referred to as ADD or ADHD) is a disorder that is characterized by hyperactivity or restlessness, trouble concentrating, and/or trouble controlling one's impulses.
- People with ADHD have many chemicals in their brain that are not present in the proper amounts in the proper places at the proper times.
- ADHD medications are designed to increase the ability of the ADHD sufferer to pay attention and manage their impulses and activity level.
- Most ADHD medications tend to increase the amount of neurotransmitters dopamine (DA) and/or norepinephrine.
- Marijuana's addiction potential, side effects, and the lack of research of its benefits for ADHD keep the use of this drug from being a viable treatment.
- The types of ADHD medicines include stimulants and non-stimulants, the latter including medications that usually treat depression.
- ADHD medications now come in pill, patch, or liquid forms.
- Precautions that are often taken when ADHD drugs are prescribed usually involve the prescribing doctor using a variety of ways to make sure the person is healthy.
- As with many medications, ADHD medications can be associated with certain interactions with other medications, some of which may be dangerous.
What are ADD or ADHD medications?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (often referred to as ADD or ADHD) is a disorder that is characterized by hyperactivity or restlessness, trouble concentrating, and/or trouble controlling one's impulses. It is one of the most common conditions of childhood and adolescence. Most experts agree that this condition affects 8%-10% of school-age children and that more than 40% of children with ADHD grow up into adults with this disorder.
Rather than having any single cause, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) develops from both genetic and life experience risk factors. Individuals with ADHD tend to have problems developing efficient self-regulation skills and decision-making abilities. Biologically, ADHD is a neurochemical and neuroanatomical disorder. People with ADHD have several chemicals in the brain that are not present in the right quantities in the right places at the right times. These chemicals may work sometimes but not consistently, and they are not under the individual's control. This is why people with ADHD have variable performance. Also, some nerve groups seem to be a bit out of position in the brain, causing delays or accelerations of nerve signals.
ADHD medications are designed to increase the ability of the ADHD sufferer to pay attention and manage their impulses and activity level. They also sometimes are used to treat people who suffer from sleep attacks (narcolepsy), chronic fatigue, or to boost the effect of antidepressant medication.
Most ADHD medications increase the amount of two brain chemicals that are used by nerve cells to communicate with one another (neurotransmitters), namely dopamine (DA) and/or norepinephrine. These chemicals have been associated with attention, pleasure, and movement. Although the chemical properties of other ADHD medications like guanfacine (Tenex, Intuniv) and clonidine (Catapres, Kapvay) are known, it is not fully understood how they affect the symptoms of ADHD.
Some medical marijuana advocates have begun to propose marijuana for the treatment of ADHD due to marijuana's effects of decreasing activity and anxiety levels. However, marijuana's addiction potential and side effect -- like impaired memory, judgment, and coordination, mood changes, low motivation, and possible psychosis -- in addition to the lack of research of its benefits for ADHD, keep the use of this drug from being a viable treatment for this disorder. While some over-the-counter medications for adult weight loss, like ephedrine, may improve focus and alertness, their appetite suppression and abuse potential preclude their being a viable option for treatment of a chronic condition like ADHD.
What are the different types of ADD or ADHD drugs?
The types of ADHD medicines include stimulants and non-stimulants. Some medications that usually treat depression help treat 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).
- Non-stimulant 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).
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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 last 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.
Are any side effects associated with ADHD medications?
Side effects associated with ADHD medications are primarily related to the group of medications to which the medication is related. However, like any other psychiatric medication, they may uncommonly cause negative changes in mood or behavior, including suicidal thoughts or actions. For example, stimulants are known to be a group that
- can decrease appetite and weight,
- cause stomach upset,
- headaches and insomnia as well as raise blood pressure,
- uncommonly unmask tics, and
- rarely cause psychosis.
While there has been concern expressed that stimulant medication may decrease the physical growth of children who take it, that tends to be uncommon and only amounts to a decrease of ½ to 1 inch in children who do experience that side effect.
When taken in excess or snorted, stimulants that treat ADHD can produce euphoria and result in addiction. Stimulant abuse has increased over the past four years, in apparent parallel to the decrease in teens ' perceived risk of abusing these substances.
Serious but uncommon side effects that can be associated with stimulant medications include
While those usually occur when stimulants are abused, people who have a preexisting heart problem are, particularly at risk.
Non-stimulant medications like Strattera, Intuniv, and Kapvay may cause drowsiness and tiredness, with Intuniv tending to cause those side effects 12 hours after it is taken as opposed to Strattera and Kapvay, which may cause drowsiness within an hour after being taken. Tenex and guanfacine(Intuniv) and clonidine (Catapres and Kapvay), both effective at treating high blood pressure, may drop blood pressure to the point of causing dizziness and palpitations or decrease the heart rate. They have also been known to cause decreased appetite, headache, stomach upset, nausea, dry mouth, constipation, and irritability. While other mood changes, including suicidal thoughts, have been documented with the use of Strattera, people taking any psychiatric medications should be monitored for the possibility of suicide, given that any psychiatric medication by definition is designed to alter brain chemistry. In contrast, Strattera may slightly increase blood pressure. Strattera also has been known to cause dry mouth, insomnia, decreased appetite, constipation, decreased libido, dizziness, and sweating as side effects.
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What are the precautions for ADHD drugs?
Precautions that are often taken when ADHD drugs are prescribed usually involve either reviewing recent lab work or requesting new lab work to make sure the person is healthy.
- The prescribing doctor might also ask that an electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) or full evaluation by a cardiologist be done if the person has a personal history of heart problems or a family history of early heart disease near or under 50 years of age.
- The person taking the medication should be monitored for side effects.
- When stimulant medications are prescribed, the weight and blood pressure of the person should be monitored to ensure that excessive weight loss or a significant increase in blood pressure has not occurred.
- For non-stimulant medications, precautions involve monitoring blood pressure to ensure that a significant decrease does not occur.
- If Wellbutrin is being considered to treat ADHD, the prescribing doctor will inquire about any history of eating disorder or seizures, since the risk of having seizures is significantly higher for those individuals if given Wellbutrin.
Are ADHD medications associated with drug interactions?
As with nearly every other kind of medication, ADHD medications can be associated with certain interactions with other medications.
- The amount of stimulant ADHD medication in the system can be particularly sensitive to how acidic substances are.
- Acidic substances like orange juice, tomato juice, and acidic medications decrease the amount of some stimulant medications in the system, and
- more basic substances like some diuretic antihypertensive medications can increase the levels of some stimulants.
Stimulants may cause blood thinners and antiseizure medications to remain at a higher level for longer and have an additive effect on medications used to treat psychosis.
- Fortunately, stimulant medications do not tend to change or be changed in terms of how they work or what they do when given with other,
- non-stimulant ADHD medications, like guanfacine, clonidine, or atomoxetine. However, other substances and medications that stimulate the nervous system can add to the effects of the stimulants. Examples of this are caffeine, ephedrine, and antidepressants like monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
- Stimulants should not be taken within 14 days of an MAOI.
Because of how guanfacine is eliminated (metabolized) by the body, it can tend to increase the number of medications like the antiseizure/mood stabilizer medication valproate. As with clonidine, which also is used as blood pressure (antihypertensive) medication, caution is used when it is being given with other antihypertensives. Since both tend to slow down the nervous system, they also should be used with caution in people taking any sedatives.
It is recommended that Wellbutrin never be combined with MAOIs or taken within 14 days of an MAOI because the result can be serious and even fatal reactions such as
If Wellbutrin or Effexor is taken with other drugs, the effects of either could be increased, decreased, or altered. Therefore, the prescribing doctor must be informed of any other medications being taken.
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Treatment & Diagnosis
Medications & Supplements
- Antidepressants (Depression Medications)
- Lexapro vs. Wellbutrin
- Wellbutrin (bupropion)
- venlafaxine, Effexor XR (Effexor has been discontinued in the US)
- clonidine (Catapres, Catapres-TTS)
- Types of Autism Medications and Treatments
- Atomoxetine vs. Adderall
- Adderall vs. Concerta
- dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
- Zoloft (sertraline) vs. Wellbutrin (bupropion)
- methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Methylin, Daytrana)
- Adderall vs. Dexedrine
- Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)
- Azstarys (serdexmethylphenidate and dexmethylphenidate)
- dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, Dextrostat, ProCentra, Zenzedi)
- Strattera (atomoxetine)
- Side Effects of Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine)
- methylphenidate patch (Daytrana)
- Concerta (methylphenidate) extended release
- Side Effects of Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
- Methylin (methylphenidate HCI)
- dextroamphetamine sustained-action capsule - oral, Dexedrine
- Side Effects of Cylert (pemoline)
- Methylin (methylphenidate HCI)
Prevention & Wellness
- ADHD Meds Can Help Preschoolers, But Effects Vary
- College Can Really Ramp Up Stress for People With ADHD
- FDA Approves First New Children's ADHD Drug in 10 Years
- College Students With ADHD Have Lower Grades, Higher Dropout Rates
- ADHD Medication ODs Rising in U.S. Kids, Teens
- Too Many Kids Still Get Antipsychotics They Don't Need
- 'Prescription Video Game' for Kids With ADHD Approved by FDA
- How Ritalin Works in the Brain
- Health Tip: Managing ADHD in Adults
- Could Fish Oil Be an ADHD Remedy for Some Kids?
- Pediatric Group Issues Updated ADHD Guidelines
- ADHD Meds May Alter Boys' Brains
- ADHD Meds Help Keep Kids Out of Trouble
- Americans' Prescription Med Use Is Declining
- FDA Approves First Device to Treat Children With ADHD
- ADHD Meds Safe With Epilepsy, Study Finds
- Animal Study Suggests Ritalin Won't Harm the Heart
- Which Drugs Work Best for ADHD? Large Study Zeroes in on Two
- Illicit Use of ADHD Meds Won't Boost Grades: Study
- Do Antipsychotic Meds for Kids Raise Diabetes Risk?
- Fewer Antibiotics for Kids, But More ADHD Drugs
- ADHD Drug Use Soars Among Young Women
- Nearly a Third of College Kids Think ADHD Meds Boost Grades
- Treating ADHD May Help Curb Later Drinking, Drug Problems
- Car Crash Rate Falls When People With ADHD Take Meds
- Meds May Curb Risky Behaviors for Kids With ADHD
- Do ADHD Medicines Boost Substance Abuse Risk?
- Exercise May Help Ease Adult ADHD Symptoms
- Lifestyle May Be Key to Improving ADHD in Kids
- For ADHD, Start With Behavior Therapy, Not Drugs: CDC
- Got Unused Meds? Here's What to Do
- ADHD Meds Tied to Lower Bone Density in Kids
- ADHD Medications Linked to Sleep Problems in Kids
- Misuse of ADHD-Type Drugs Starts Long Before College: Study
- Medication Linked to Fewer Injuries in Kids With ADHD
- Text Messages Remind People to Take Medications
- ADHD Stimulant Drug Abuse Common Among Young Adults: Survey
- U.S. Kids Use ADHD Meds More During School Year
- Kids Taking ADHD Drugs Get Little Psychotherapy: Study
- ADHD Medications Won't Stunt Kids' Growth, Study Finds
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You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
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