What is adhd medicines?

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What medicines are used to treat ADHD?

Medicines are often used to help control the symptoms of ADHD. Hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention can all be helped with medicines. Stimulant medicines are used most often. They can result in quick and dramatic improvements in behavior. Nonstimulant medicines may be used if stimulants have bothersome side effects or aren't effective.

Caring for your child who is starting medicines for ADHD

Medicines for ADHD may help your child be more calm and focused. Stimulant medicines are often used to treat ADHD. If they don't work, your child's doctor might prescribe a nonstimulant medicine. Nonstimulants may be used alone or along with stimulants. Here are some ways to care for your child if your child is starting medicines for ADHD.

  • Tell the doctor if your child has other health conditions.

    Let the doctor know if your child has any heart problems or heart defects or if there is a family history of these problems. This may affect what type of medicine the doctor prescribes for your child.

  • Watch for side effects.

    Many side effects will go away after your child takes the medicine for a few weeks. If they don't go away, the doctor may need to adjust the dose or timing of the medicine. Or the doctor may need to change the medicine.

    • Common side effects include loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and feeling nervous. Other side effects are headaches, dizziness, an upset stomach, and the heart beating fast or irregularly (palpitations). Also watch for mood changes and repeated jerks or muscle movements (tics).
    • Stimulant medicines may be linked to slower growth in children, especially in the first year of taking the medicine. But these medicines may not affect a child's final height as an adult.
    • Some nonstimulant medicines may increase the risk that a child will think about or try suicide, especially in the first few weeks of use. Some warning signs of suicide include talking about feeling hopeless or wanting to die. Withdrawing from friends and family is also a warning sign. Get help right away if you see any of these signs.
  • Help your child manage mild side effects.

    For example, if your child has trouble sleeping, try keeping the bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. Or if your child has an upset stomach, they may need to eat smaller meals throughout the day. Ask your child's doctor for more ways to manage mild side effects.

  • Give medicines as prescribed.

    If your child misses a dose, don't give a double dose. Don't stop giving your child the medicine. If you want to stop or reduce your child's use of the medicine, talk to the doctor first.

  • Keep track of the medicines.
    • Tell your child to not share their medicines with others.
    • Make sure that your child doesn't misuse medicines, such as taking a larger dose than prescribed.
    • Make sure that medicines are stored safely at home and at school. Lock up medicines. And store them at room temperature.
    • If your child takes a midday dose, let your child's teacher know. The school nurse or other staff member will need to give your child the medicine.
  • Look for signs that the medicine is working.

    Some medicines start working quickly. Others may take several weeks. Ask the doctor when you might notice any changes in your child. Your child may:

    • Have more focus.
    • Be calmer or less restless.
    • Have better relationships.
    • Do better at school.
  • Check in with your child's teacher.

    Tell the teacher about your child's medicines. Ask for progress reports on how your child is doing in class.

  • Let the doctor know if your child's symptoms aren't getting better.

    And let the doctor know if the medicine stops working too early in the day. The doctor may need to adjust the dose or timing of the medicine. Or your child may need to try several different medicines. It can take a while to find the medicine and dosage that works best. Your child also may need to be checked for other health conditions.

  • Find a counselor for your child.

    Seeing a counselor along with taking the medicine can help your child. Ask your child's doctor for a referral.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If your child talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Go to 988lifeline.org for more information or to chat online.

How is medicine used to treat ADHD?

Medicines are used to help control the symptoms of ADHD.

Children should be closely watched after they start medicines. The doctor can assess if your child is getting the right dose.

Be sure that medicine for ADHD is taken on schedule. You'll also need to keep track of the effects of the medicine. Talk often with your child's doctor.

Medicines to treat ADHD include:

  • Stimulants. Examples are amphetamine (such as Adderall or Dexedrine) and methylphenidate (such as Concerta, Metadate CD, or Ritalin).
  • Nonstimulants. Examples are atomoxetine (Strattera), clonidine (Kapvay), and guanfacine (Intuniv).
  • Antidepressants. At times, certain antidepressants are also recommended.

Most often, stimulants are used to treat ADHD. These work well for people of all ages. In general, stimulants improve symptoms quickly.

If stimulants don't work or have side effects that cause problems, your child's doctor might recommend a nonstimulant. These medicines may be used alone or along with stimulant medicines.

How safe are ADHD medicines for children?

Medicines for ADHD improve behavior and attention in many children who take them. But you'll need to watch your child carefully for side effects. Side effects usually decrease after a few weeks on the medicines. If your child is having bothersome side effects, talk to your child's doctor. The doctor may change the dosage or recommend a different medicine.

Be sure that medicine for ADHD is taken consistently. Keep track of the effects of the medicine, and communicate closely with your child's doctor.

Here are some other things to think about:

  • Stimulant medicines may be related to slower growth in children, especially in the first year of taking the medicine. But these medicines may not affect a child's final height as an adult. Your doctor will keep track of your child's growth and will watch for problems.
  • Some medicines used to treat ADHD (such as stimulants) can be misused. Make sure that your child knows not to sell or give medicine to other people. An adult should supervise the medicine.
  • Some parents worry that taking stimulants will increase their child's risk for developing a substance use disorder later in life. But research has shown that these medicines, when taken correctly, don't affect a child's risk for having problems with substance use later on.

Why are medicines for ADHD used?

Medicines are used to help control the symptoms of ADHD. Symptoms include:

  • Trouble paying attention.
  • Trouble sitting still for even a short time. This is called hyperactivity.
  • Acting before thinking. Teens and adults may make quick decisions that have a long-term impact on their lives.

Most often, stimulant medicines are used to treat ADHD. Nonstimulants may also be used to help control symptoms.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.