Medications For Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
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Medications For Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Success in numerous aspects of life requires focus and concentration. Still, some people may find it difficult to control their hyperactivity and pay attention. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental illness that can cause difficulties in personal, professional, and academic domains for individuals of all ages. We will discuss the function of drugs in treating ADHD in this post, as well as their advantages and possible drawbacks.


Table Of Contents

What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

What Role Does Medication Have in Treating ADHD?

What Are the Benefits of ADHD Medications?

What Are the Risks of Taking ADHD Medication?


What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Persistent patterns of impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention are hallmarks of the complex disease known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It might be difficult for people with ADHD to maintain impulse control, concentrate, and adhere to obligations. The condition usually first appears in childhood and might last into puberty and adulthood (National Institute of Mental Health, 2023).


Three subtypes of ADHD exist, and each has a distinct set of symptoms:

  1. Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: Inability to focus, reckless errors, forgetfulness, and difficulties staying organized.
  2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: Agitation, impatience, inability to wait one’s turn, and frequent talking.
  3. Combined Presentation: A mix of hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive characteristics. (American Psychiatric Association, 2022)


Considering the occurrence and intensity of symptoms in a variety of contexts, an in-depth assessment is necessary to diagnose ADHD. These assessments are done by mental health professionals. Standardized rating scales, behavioral observations, and interviews are frequently employed to support diagnosis (Magnus et al., 2023).



Medication Managment

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch


What Role Does Medication Have in Treating ADHD?

Medications are essential for controlling the symptoms of ADHD and are frequently used in conjunction with other treatment modalities. Medication is often administered to address particular neurochemical imbalances that are linked to ADHD, although behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, and lifestyle adjustments are essential components of managing the condition (Adler & Chua, 2002).


The two main drug groups that are used to treat ADHD are stimulants and non-stimulants.


Stimulants: In the brain, stimulants increase the activity of neurotransmitters, especially norepinephrine and dopamine. These medications aid by enhancing focus, impulse control, and attention (Wolraich et al., 2019).


Medications such as amphetamine and methylphenidate are among the most frequently prescribed drugs for ADHD. Both function somewhat differently yet have comparable results. Methylphenidate, for instance, typically acts more quickly but its effectiveness lasts for short time (Faraone, 2018).


Stimulants are available in both short-acting and extended-release properties (Wolraich et al., 2019). The duration of action of rapid release, short-acting stimulants is four to six hours whereas the duration of action can lasts up to eight to sixteen hours in long-acting, extended release stimulants (Young & Goodman, 2016). Dopamine is also released directly by amphetamines.  About 70% of patients respond well to stimulants (Magnus et al., 2023).



Non-stimulants: The more modern ADHD medications known as non-stimulants elevate norepinephrine levels. It is believed that norepinephrine improves memory and focus. Antidepressants and alpha-2 adrenergic receptor agonists are the two kinds of non-stimulant ADHD medications.  Non-stimulant drugs may be considered in situations where stimulants are ineffective or create difficult-to-manage adverse effects (Felt et al., 2014).


As a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, atomoxetine is the most well-known antidepressant in this category. It has been shown in numerous trials to be a successful treatment for ADHD, however not quite as successful as stimulants. Moreover, its antidepressant effects are negligible. Children suffering from anxiety or who cannot handle stimulants are frequently treated with it. Bupropion is another antidepressant that targets serotonin and dopamine (Magnus et al., 2023). Alpha-2 adrenergic receptor agonists such as clonidine and guanfacine produce their effect significantly in younger children in comparison to adults (Wilens & Spencer, 2010).



What Are the Benefits of ADHD Medications?

The benefits of ADHD drugs are numerous and greatly enhance the quality of life and everyday functioning of those who suffer from the condition.


Enhanced Focus and Concentration: Stimulant drugs can improve focus and concentration, enabling more engagement in tasks and activities.


Improved Academic and Occupational Performance: ADHD can make it difficult for a person to succeed academically and professionally, but medication can help people handle the demands of their jobs better, which can enhance performance in the classroom and increase success at work.


Enhanced Executive Functioning: Planning, organizing, and impulse control are among the executive functions that are frequently compromised in individuals with ADHD; these deficits can be mitigated by drugs that alter neurotransmitter activity.


Increased Self-Esteem and Confidence: ADHD treatment can increase confidence and self-worth, motivating people to interact with others and have an optimistic opinion of themselves.


Better Interpersonal Relationships: Due to impulsive actions and attention issues, ADHD symptoms can cause relationship problems; however, treatment can enhance communication and promote more satisfying relationships.



What Are the Risks of Taking ADHD Medication?

While there are many advantages to using ADHD medications, there are also potential dangers and side effects to consider, as different people may respond differently to these drugs.



Stimulant Medication Side Effects

Insomnia: Stimulants can disrupt sleep cycles, making it harder to get to sleep or stay asleep.

Appetite Suppression: Some people may report a temporary reduction in appetite.

Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: Blood pressure and heart rate can rise with stimulant drugs. It is imperative that patients have routine medical monitoring, particularly if they already have a cardiovascular disease.

Emotional Reactions: Stimulants can sometimes make people more agitated or anxious. (Magnus et al., 2023)



Non-Stimulant Medication Side Effects

Gastrointestinal Issues: When taking non-stimulant drugs, side effects like nausea, upset stomach, and constipation can develop.

Fatigue or Sleepiness: Drowsiness is a possible adverse effect for some people.

Mood Changes: Rarely, non-stimulant drugs may be a factor in mood swings or abnormalities in emotional regulation. (Magnus et al., 2023)


Managing ADHD properly requires understanding the role of drugs, which can be difficult to navigate while learning about the disorder and treatment alternatives. Both stimulant- and non-stimulant ADHD drugs have shown to be highly beneficial in enhancing focus, concentration, and general day-to-day functioning. But it’s also critical to be informed of possible hazards and adverse consequences to make sure people receive individualized, focused care from medical professionals.







Adler, L. A., & Chua, H. C. (2002). Management of ADHD in Adults. J Clin Psychiatry.

American Psychiatric Association. (2022, June). What is ADHD?

Faraone, S. V. (2018). The pharmacology of amphetamine and methylphenidate: Relevance to the neurobiology of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other psychiatric comorbidities. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 87, 255–270.

Felt, B. T., Biermann, B., Christner, J. G., Kochhar, P., & Harrison, R. V. (2014). Diagnosis and Management of ADHD in Children. American Family Physician, 90(7), 456–464.

Magnus, W., Nazir, S., Anilkumar, A. C., & Shaban, K. (2023). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.

National Institute of Mental Health. (2023, September). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Wilens, T. E., & Spencer, T. J. (2010). Understanding attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder from childhood to adulthood. Postgraduate Medicine, 122(5), 97–109.

Wolraich, M. L., Hagan, J. F., Jr, Allan, C., Chan, E., Davison, D., Earls, M., Evans, S. W., Flinn, S. K., Froehlich, T., Frost, J., Holbrook, J. R., Lehmann, C. U., Lessin, H. R., Okechukwu, K., Pierce, K. L., Winner, J. D., Zurhellen, W., & SUBCOMMITTEE ON CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS WITH ATTENTION-DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVE DISORDER. (2019). Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics, 144(4), e20192528.

Young, J. L., & Goodman, D. W. (2016). Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Diagnosis, Management, and Treatment in the <em>DSM-5</em> Era. The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders, 18(6), 26599.



Written By: Dr. Wasif MD

Edited by: Madison Vargas, BS

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, LMFT

Published : 01/27/2024


Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

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