Are Adult ADHD Medications Effective? And Which Ones Work Best?


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In addition to counseling, behavioral conditioning, coaching, and support groups, four drugs—brand names Adderall, Dexedrine, Ritalin, and Concerta—are commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, sometime simply called ADD) in adults and children.

These meds affect the activity of two key brain chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine, and this can affect individuals in different ways. (Thats why Adderall might help one ADHD sufferer, while Ritalin works best for another.)

For people without ADHD, these medications work as stimulants, increasing activity and speeding up response time. But they have the opposite effect on people with attention disorders. Instead of being hyperstimulated, a person with ADHD will feel calmer, more focused, and less impulsive—hence, she may get more done in less time, but she wont feel jittery or “speedy.”

Treatment Options for ADHD at Any Age
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You may consider medication, talk therapy, or lifestyle changes  Read more
A newer, nonstimulant drug, called Strattera, is another option. It may be a better choice for women who also suffer from anxiety, have a history of substance abuse, or have experienced insomnia or weight loss with amphetamine meds, says Tracy Latz, MD, a psychiatrist and associate clinical professor at Wake Forest University Medical Center.

Its downside? Strattera must be taken for two weeks to have effect, while amphetamines often bring instant relief.

This article was first published in Health magazine, June 2009.
Last Updated: June 04, 2009

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