ADHD Medication & Effects

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a condition that causes children to be impulsive, overly active or to have trouble paying attention and focusing. Some children with ADHD struggle with all three symptoms. If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, your doctor may recommend several treatment options. You and your doctor should set goals for the treatment, according to MedlinePlus, and re-evaluate it if those goals are not met.


Types of Medication

Medications for ADHD include stimulants, such as Ritalin (methylphenidate), Adderall (dextroamphetamine-amphetamine) and Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine). Stimulant drugs work by balancing neurotransmitters in the brain, that control activity and inattention, according to the MayoClinic.com. The drugs typically work for four to 12 hours before the child needs to take another dose. Other medications for ADHD include atomoxetine, a non-stimulant medicine, as well as antidepressants and certain types of medications commonly used to treat high blood pressure, such as guanfacine, which can help reduce aggression and decrease the side effects caused by other ADHD medications.

Side Effects

Unfortunately, most ADHD medications are not without side effects. Mild side effects from stimulant and non-stimulant drugs include a loss of appetite and weight loss. While stimulants may make it difficult for the child to sleep, non-stimulants can knock a child out. In some cases, children may experience tics when taking stimulants. Adjusting the dose of the medicine should help the tics go away, according to the MayoClinic.com.

Risks and Concerns

Some effects of ADHD medications can be dangerous. If your child has a heart problem, taking a stimulant may cause sudden death, according to Helpguide. You may want to have an electrocardiogram (EKG) performed on your child before starting him on a stimulant to rule out any heart problems. Atomoxetine, the non-stimulant medication, may cause liver damage in some children. It may also cause suicide ideation, particularly in children who also have depression or bi-polar disorder, according to Helpguide.

Handling the Medication

If your child experiences unpleasant side effects from his ADHD medication, you may wish to talk with his doctor about lowering the dose. Both you and the doctor should closely monitor your child to make sure the medication is working and to make sure he isn’t experiencing dangerous effects. If your child is taking stimulants, you may need to keep a close eye on the pills. Give your child his dose every day and keep the pills out of the reach of other children. While your child should be fine as long as he takes the prescribed dose, stimulants are extremely addictive, according to the MayoClinic.com, and the risk of abuse is always present.

Other Treatment Options

Unfortunately, medication does not cure ADHD, it only treats the symptoms. You may find that your child benefits from combining medication with some sort of therapy. Behavior therapy will help both you learn techniques to reward your child for good behavior while psychotherapy can help your child work through his frustrations and struggles with the condition. Most children with ADHD benefit from eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and exercising on a regular basis.

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