More than 9 million adults and 6 million children aged 4–17 suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Studies have shown that without proper treatment, people with ADHD are likely to experience increased symptoms all through their adulthood; thus, leading to an unbalanced neurological functioning.
However, some medications have been proven to reduce the symptoms of inactivity, hyperactivity, and impulsivity in adults and children with ADHD. But is ADHD medications really worth it?
Here is some information to help you understand better the concept of ADHD, how medications work on it, common side effects on adults and children, causes, and how to reduce its symptoms.
Overview of ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also known as attention deficit disorder (ADD), is a chronic neurological condition that limits attention abilities and causes hyperactivity in both children and adults. Apart from these challenges, most people experience minor symptoms like:
- Misplaced motivation
- Difficulty in time management
- Emotional outbursts
- The problem of talking excessively
This disorder often takes shape between ages three and six and in most cases, people with this disorder can live with these symptoms throughout their lives. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorities have made it possible to relieve these symptoms through various treatments, like behavioural therapy and medications. Where both work effectively, medications have been commonly used by many with this condition.
ADHA medications: how it works
Medications help relieve the symptoms of hyperactivity, attention difficulties, and impulsiveness in people with ADHD to help balance neurological function. But, although it works exceptionally to improve concentration, control, and impulsive difficulties, you need to understand that medications work effectively for some than others.
The reason is that each person responds differently to ADHD medications. Some may notice dramatic improvements while others only experience modest changes. Hence, the need for a personalised prescription from your doctor and active supervision to make the drugs less risky and more effective.
Additionally, medications cannot cure ADHD. Even with medication, people with this condition continue to struggle with symptoms associated with ADHD. This is why it is important to develop a lifestyle that includes eating healthy, regular exercises, sufficient sleep, and taking medications. So, what are the most common ADHD medications?
Medications used in treating ADHD vary according to use and for each person. Some of the common ADHD drugs approved by the FDA authorities include:
For adults and children with ADHD, stimulants are the most commonly prescribed medication and are often used first for ADHD treatment. Stimulants work by increasing the dopamine and norepinephrine hormones in the brain to improve attentiveness. Some types of stimulants for ADHD treatment includes:
- Desoxyn (methamphetamine)
Unlike stimulants, which increase brain hormones to improve concentration, non-stimulants also affect the neurological hormones but do not increase dopamine levels. Non-stimulants take a longer time to manifest and are usually prescribed when stimulants are not effective in patients with ADHD. These drugs help to reduce aggressive traits and hyperactivity and are usually prescribed for adults with high blood pressure. Examples of non-stimulants include:
- Strattera (atomoxetine)
- Kapvay (clonidine ER)
- Guanfacine ER (Intuniv)
Are ADHD drugs right for adults and children?
Just as glasses help people with eye defects focus well, these medications improve attentiveness in adults and children with ADHD. In the United States, more than nine million adults are affected by this condition. However, the symptoms are not as prevalent in adults as in children. But, one factor to consider is that side effects may develop if used consistently and without proper prescription. The FDA has however approved both the use of stimulants and non-stimulants as an effective treatment for people with ADHD.
Recent studies have shown that over 80% of children treated with stimulants notice dramatic improvements in a short time. The stimulants could either be one with a:
- Short-acting time immediate-release, between four and six hours like amphetamine and dextroamphetamine
- An immediate acting time or extended-release, between six and eight hours, like methylphenidate
- The long-acting time between 10 and 12 hours, like Lisdexamfetamine.
On the other hand, non-stimulants like Intuniv (guanfacine), Strattera (atomoxetine), and Kapvay (clonidine) act as a useful alternative for people with lower tolerance to stimulants.
Common side effects and risk factors of ADHD medications
While ADHD medications work exceptionally for children, medications still come with their risks. Some common side effects of ADHD medications in children include:
- Decreased appetite
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Weight loss
- Sleeping difficulties
- Minor growth development
- Upset stomach
- Decrease in blood pressure
- Social withdrawal
For adults, decreased appetite, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and mood swings are the common side effects of using these drugs. But, adults with high blood pressure and heart problems like structural heart and rhythm problems, and heart failure would want to stay away from these drugs.
Over the years, researchers have been unable to link the single cause of ADHD to one factor. But, studies have shown that factors like genetic mutation and environmental factors can lead to the development of ADHD. From these, factors the most common cause of ADHD has been linked to the strong combination of genetic components, which could be from parents, twins DNA, missing DNA, and thin brain tissues.
How do you take ADHA medications?
If you decide that medications are what you need for your attention deficit hyperactive disorder, then you want to take your drugs in the right way. To take your ADHD medication drugs:
- Learn everything you need to know about the prescribed medications, from the dosage to take, to the special warnings and possible side effects.
- Monitor the effects of the drugs on your emotions and behaviour, and how effective the drugs work in relieving your symptoms.
- The goal is to get possible low doses that will effectively reduce symptoms. So, start on low doses.
- It is always best to communicate with your doctor to know when to taper off your dosage.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.