Being medication smart with ADHD

The medications used to treat ADHD are effective. The options for ADHD medications are:

  • stimulant medications
    • methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Ritalin SR®, Concerta®, Biphentin®, generic agents)
    • dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®, Dexedrine Spansules®)
    • mixed amphetamine salts (Adderall XR®)
  • non-stimulant medication
    • atomoxetine (Strattera®)

An effective treatment approach can result in improved school performance, improvements in relationships with others, and decreased disruptive behaviour.

ADHD medications are like eyeglasses: they only work when you are using them. Therefore, these medications must be taken as directed by your physician.

If you are using a long-acting stimulant or long-acting non-stimulant medication, they can usually be taken once daily, usually in the morning. The benefit of long-acting medications is that you don't need to take a dose at school, and there may be fewer missed doses and possibly fewer "wearing off" side effects.

As with other medications, there are side effects associated with ADHD medications. The side effects can differ between the medication options. The majority of side effects are easily managed and don't last long. It is possible for children to have some rare, but serious, side effects to these medications. Before starting any new medication, it is important to learn about the benefits and risks associated with them. With that in mind, if your child is starting a new medication for ADHD, you should be sure you ask your doctor or pharmacist the following 6 questions (assuming they didn't tell you this information already):

  1. What benefits can I expect from this medication?
  2. When will this medication start working?
  3. How should this medication be taken?
  4. What are the side effects or disadvantages of this medication?
  5. Are there any precautions or serious, long-lasting side effects from this medication?
  6. What do we do if we miss a dose?

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