Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects roughly 6.1 million children in the US. This condition is mostly diagnosed in children under the age of 12, with boys being more commonly diagnosed than girls. ADHD is characterized by symptoms such as impulsivity, difficulty concentrating, and hyperactivity. These symptoms can significantly affect children’s ability to focus on tasks and maintain relationships. The cause of ADHD is still unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Medication: A Common Treatment for ADHD
While there are many treatments for ADHD, medication is the most commonly used. Medications for ADHD can help improve a child’s ability to pay attention, control impulses and manage hyperactivity. They work by increasing the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters regulate attention, motivation, and other aspects of behavior.
Types of ADHD Medications
There are two main categories of medications used to treat ADHD: stimulants and non-stimulants. The most common type is stimulants. Stimulants increase the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, improving attention and reducing hyperactivity. The non-stimulants work differently, targeting other neurotransmitters to improve attention and reduce impulsivity. Let’s take a closer look at each category.
How do Stimulants Work?
Stimulants work by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are neurotransmitters that play a critical role in attention and impulse control. These drugs improve the communication between neurons in the brain, which helps to improve attention and reduce hyperactivity.
Common Stimulant Medications
- Ritalin (Methylphenidate)
- Adderall (Amphetamine)
- Vyvanse (Lisdexamfetamine)
- Concerta (Methylphenidate)
Side Effects of Stimulant Drugs
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pain
- Weight loss
- In some rare cases, psychosis
It is important to note that while these side effects can be concerning, they are generally mild and can be managed by adjusting the medication or dosage. Parents should always consult with their healthcare provider if they notice any changes in their child’s behavior or health after starting medication.
How do Non-Stimulant Medications Work?
Non-stimulant medications work differently from stimulants by targeting other neurotransmitters that affect attention and impulse control, such as norepinephrine or serotonin. These drugs are often prescribed when stimulants are not effective or if the side effects of stimulants are too severe.
Common Non-Stimulant Medications
- Strattera (Atomoxetine)
- Intuniv (Guanfacine)
- Kapvay (Clonidine)
Side Effects of Non-Stimulant Drugs
- Stomach pain
- Decreased blood pressure
- Mood swings
Like stimulant medications, side effects of non-stimulant medications can be managed by adjusting the medication or dosage. It is critical to work closely with your healthcare provider to monitor your child’s progress on these medications.
While medication is the most widely used treatment for ADHD, it is important to understand that it is not the right treatment for everyone. Some children may not respond well to medication or may experience severe side effects. However, when used correctly and in combination with therapy, medication can help improve a child’s academic and social life. It is essential to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the best medication and dosage for your child.
FAQs about How Medication Helps ADHD
Q1. Can Medication Cure ADHD?
No, there is no known cure for ADHD. However, medication can help manage the symptoms and significantly improve a child’s ability to focus and control impulses.
Q2. When Should My Child Take ADHD Medication?
It is best to take ADHD medication in the morning or early afternoon to avoid insomnia at night. However, some children may require a second dose later in the day.
Q3. What Happens If I Miss a Dose of ADHD Medication?
If you miss a dose, take the medication as soon as possible. However, if it is close to the next scheduled dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
Q4. How Long Does ADHD Medication Take to Work?
It can take a few days to a few weeks for the medication to take effect fully. Parents should be patient and follow their healthcare provider’s instructions on dosage and timing.
Q5. Can ADHD Medication Be Stopped Suddenly?
No, ADHD medication should not be stopped suddenly. It is important to work closely with your healthcare provider to taper off the medication gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- Mayo Clinic. (2022). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adhd-in-children/symptoms-causes/syc-20350889
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml
- WebMD. (2022). Medications for ADHD in Children. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/medications-child-adhd