ADD / ADHD Medication Options

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

ADD / ADHD Medication Options

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are two similar disorders. They affect a person’s ability to focus and concentrate. People with ADHD will also show behavioral issues related to hyperactivity. A person is typically diagnosed with ADD/ADHD in childhood. This is when he or she begins to show behavioral and cognitive issues.

Patients with ADD/ADHD are typically treated with medication. The medications used to treat these two disorders are classified as amphetamines. Amphetamines are stimulants. Stimulant drugs affect the dopamine levels of the brain. Dopamine affects a person’s concentration and attention.

Stimulant medications are helpful for ADD/ADHD because they help improve focus and concentration. They also reduce behavioral issues related to impulsivity.

Common medications to treat ADD/ADHD are:

  • Aderall (Mixed Amphetamine)
  • Ritalin (Methylpheniadate)
  • Concerta (Methylpheniadate)
  • Welbutrin (Buproprion)

There are also non-stimulant medication options. A popular non-stimulant medication for ADD/ADHD is Straterra (Atomoxetine). This medication targets norepinephrine levels in the brain. It is effective in increasing concentration, but does not affect hyperactivity symptoms. Unlike stimulant medication, Straterra does not have addictive components.

Addiction and Stimulant Medication

A person may become addicted to stimulant medication if it is used without a doctor’ supervision. Stimulant medications affect brain chemistry. When taken consistently it will alter the frequency that dopamine is produced. Without medication monitoring, there is a high risk for misuse, which will lead to addiction.

It is important to be supervised by a doctor because he or she will know how to manage dosage to prevent addiction. As long as a patient is being closely monitored by a medical professional it is not likely that he or she will develop an addiction.

There is no identified risk of addiction for non-stimulant ADD/ADHD medication.

Other Side Effects of ADD/ADHD Medication

There are several potential side effects of ADD/ADHD medication, including:

  • Restlessness
  • Sleep Issues
  • Stomach Pain or nausea
  • Irritability
  • Depression and Mood Swings
  • Headaches
  • Change in Appetite
  • Racing Heartbeat

If a patient is suffering from these side effects, he or she will likely be advised to cease medication use and seek medical assistance. The doctor may switch medications or alter dosages to prevent future symptoms.

Is it Effective?

ADD/ADHD medication has been found to be effective. It helps with reducing behavioral issues and improving concentration. There is no evidence that it improves issues with:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Emotional Issues
  • Socialization Issues
  • Relationship Issues

It has also been found that inattentive and hyperactive behavior often returns when the patient is not using his or her medication.

ADD/ADHD medication will not cure the disorder. That is why it is important to also seek mental health counseling. Therapists and counselors will help the patient and family members make changes to reduce symptoms. The mental health professional will be equipped to offer lifestyle changes for the patient and family, including:

  • Home and Family Structure (Chores, routine, responsibilities, praise and punishment techniques)
  • Healthy Habits (Related to exercise, dietary changes and sleep schedules to reduce symptoms)

ADD/ADHD medication is effective in reducing and managing symptoms, but it will not cure the disorder. In conjunction with medication, the patient and family members should attend regular counseling sessions.


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