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ADHD in Adults (cont.)

Medications for ADHD in Adults

The medications available for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can have slightly different effects from individual to individual, and currently no method exists to tell which will work best. Medications indicated for ADHD are thought to work by improving the imbalance of neurochemicals that are thought to contribute to ADHD. Some commonly prescribed medications include the following:

If one medication does not work effectively, some of the others are often tried because individuals may respond quite differently to each one. Medications in different groups used in combination may be more effective than each medication alone for some people. In general, the medications used to treat ADHD in adults are the same ones used to treat ADHD in children. While there are far fewer studies on the long-term effects of stimulant medications like Ritalin, Adderall, or Focalin, some research shows that the effectiveness of stimulants sometimes wanes over time.

Certain antidepressants such as imipramine, desipramine, and nortriptyline (tricyclic antidepressants or TCAs) along with bupropion and perhaps venlafaxine or duloxetine are used. TCAs are less often prescribed for treatment of ADHD because of the availability of antidepressant medications that are less prone to side effects, including more serious side effects. Other medicines and combinations of medicines are also available. Proper dose levels are determined on a case-by-case basis, not exclusively by weight or age.

Antidepressant medications and atomoxetine may increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior as side effects of the medication, particularly in individuals with a history of bipolar or other mood disorder, or a personal or family history of suicidal behavior. Those negative emotional effects can occur with virtually any psychiatric medication, including all of those that treat ADHD.

Medication can help some or all of the following areas:

  • Academic underachieving and inattentiveness
  • Hyperactivity or fidgeting
  • Verbal and/or behavioral impulsivity (for example, blurting out, interrupting others, acting before thinking)
  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Trouble waking up (not getting out of bed in the morning)
  • Excessive irritability without cause and/or easy frustration
  • Episodic explosiveness, emotional outbursts, or temper tantrums
  • Unexplained and persistent emotional negativity

If an ADHD medication is not significantly helping with a number of these concerns or is causing uncomfortable or problematic side effects, ask about changing the dosage or changing medicine.

While a number of natural remedies and changes in diet to treat ADHD have been tried, research indicates that many such interventions are either too restrictive to daily life to implement in a realistic way or have yet to be found to have a significant impact on ADHD symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/22/2014

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder »

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental condition of inattention and distractibility, with or without accompanying hyperactivity.

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