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ADHD Medications: ADHD Drugs for Children and Adults

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, often called ADHD, is a clinical condition characterised by certain behavioural characteristics that include excessive activity, impulsive behaviour and lack of attention. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition, but treatments are now available that can help manage this condition effectively. Of the available treatments, drug therapy forms an important part of management of this clinical condition.

In this article, we shall take a brief look at the different medications available to manage ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Medication

The aims of starting a patient on ADHD drugs is to help control the impulsive behaviour, increase attention span, reduce anxiety and to help develop new skills to keep them occupied.

There are currently only a handful of ADHD medications for adults and children. These include -

  • Dexamphetamine
  • Methylphenidate
  • Atomoxetine

Let’s look at each of these individually.

  1. Dexamphetamine

    This is a controlled drug that is available on prescription only, and its use is monitored constantly. It works by stimulating the central nervous system in a controlled fashion so as to limit the levels of hyperactivity. It is fairly commonly used as an ADHD med in children (over the age of 3), and is currently not used to manage ADHD in adults. In particular, if it is used in adults, it should be avoided in pregnant women and in patients who have cardiovascular disease.

    It is prescribed as a once a day or twice daily dose.

    See also Adderall (Amphetamine and Dextroamphetamine mixed salts)

  2. Methyphenidate

    This is the most commonly used medication in children with ADHD. It is also a stimulant of the central nervous system, and has an effect on behaviour. It is ideally avoided in pregnant women or in children suffering from depression or glaucoma. The treatment, though not licensed in adults, can still be used under close monitoring.

    Patients who take methylphenidate can experience certain side effects, which include weight loss (due to loss of appetite), insomnia, mood swings and headaches.

    The tablet is often prescribed as a daily dose taken 3 times a day, or a once a day dose if a modified release form of the drug is used.

    See also Methylphenidate Hydrochloride

  3. Atomoxetine

    While this is an effective ADHD drug, its mechanism of action is different to methylphenidate and dexamphetamine. It acts by blocking the uptake of noradrenaline by its receptors, and helps improve concentration and inhibit excessive impulses.

    Unlike the other two medications, Atomoxetine is licensed as an ADHD drug for adults as well as children. However, it’s use should be avoided in pregnant women and in children with glaucoma.

    While the effectiveness of this drug is good to manage ADHD, it has certain side effects as well, which can include depression and liver damage. This can be associated with nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and irritability. In case these side effects do occur, a visit to the doctor is advised.

    See also Strattera (Atomoxetine)

ADHD meds are only a few, and while they help control symptoms effectively, they do not offer a cure. Medication for ADHD should be taken only on prescription, and should be avoided in certain conditions as mentioned above. With regular administration, the symptoms of ADHD can be controlled effectively.

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