Medications to Treat ADHD

ADHD Treatment Using Medications

We are often asked what are the medication options for ADHD treatment. There are a few different types of medications that are commonly used and some are summarized here. Child psychiatrists often prescribe these, as well as other non-medication treatments for children, teens, and adults with attention deficit disorder.

Here are a few categories of medications used to treat ADHD:

  1. Stimulants to treat ADHD

    Stimulants are medications like methylphenidate (aka. the brand names Ritalin or Concerta), and amphetamines (such as the brand names Adderall or Vyvanse) that are used for ADHD. Both of these work by stimulating the brain, hence the name stimulant. Some are shorter-acting, meaning the stimulating effects only last 3-5 hours, and others are long-acting lasting 10-12 hours. Most of them take about 20-60 minutes to start working. A few of the more common side effects of stimulants are that they can decrease appetite, cause jitteriness, and can cause weight loss or slowed growth (usually temporarily). Heart rate and blood pressure can also go up, so those should be monitored as well.

  2. Selective NE Reuptake Inhibitors to treat ADHD

    Another category of medication used for ADHD is atomoxetine (brand name Strattera). This medication blocks the reuptake of a neurotransmitter in the brain. This is an alternative to stimulants. Some of the side effects include weight loss and decreased appetite as well.

  3. Alpha 2 Adrenergic Agonists to treat ADHD

    These medications include clonidine and guanfacine. These work by stimulating a receptor in the brain that causes many effects including decreased heart rate and blood pressure. It is thought that it works on ADHD by helping regulate the part of the brain responsible for emotions and attention.

Besides medications, there are also other treatment options. There is even a new device that was recently approved for ADHD treatment. 

If you are concerned that you or a family member or child may have ADHD it is important to see a doctor and get an evaluation and diagnosis. There are medication as well as other non-medication options available to treat ADHD and a psychiatrist can help you to make those decisions. If you want to see a psychiatrist from your phone or computer, click here.