Blog Post Series 2: ADHD-Medication Treatments

Posted on November 16, 2010

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Before we jump into the controversy of medications vs. non-drug treatments for ADHD, we need to learn what each of these treatments are all about. To continue on with our discussion of types of treatments for ADHD, first let’s start off with the most common and most known treatment: medication. The types of medications that can be taken for ADHD  include stimulants, nonstimulants, and antidepressants.

Stimulant medications are the most common to be taken for treatment of ADHD.  Listed from WebMD , some examples of stimulants include methylphenidates such as, Ritalin(most common), Metadate, Concerta; or amphetamines, including Dexedrine, Dextrostat, and Adderall. According to the American Pyschological Association (APA), taking stimulant medications results in fast improvements in performance and social interaction for children and adults who suffer from ADHD. Within these improvements doctors and patients have seen improvement in schoolwork, being able to focus better, more organization, fewer rule breakings, and easier socialization with others.

Nonstimulant drugs such as Strattera and Intuniv work on certain levels of the brain to increase the chemical norepinephrine to improve concentration and impulse control. These types of drugs show lower risk of dependence of drugs and abuse than stimulants do. Nonstimulants  have advantages over stimulants used for ADHD. For example, WebMD tells us that nonstimulants:

  • Don’t cause agitation or sleeplessness.
  • Are not controlled substances and don’t pose the same risk of abuse or addiction.
  • Have a longer-lasting and smoother effect than many stimulants, which can take effect and wear off abruptly.

Antidepressants such as Tricyclic, Wellbutrin, and Effexor work to treat ADHD symptoms by increasing levels of neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, in the brain. Although antidepressants are not as effective as stimulants and nonstimulants, the advantage of taking antidepressants is that they have a low potential for drug abuse. In most cases, antidepressants are taken when stimulants are not effective.

Of course with any drug, we must know that it comes with side effects. Every different kind of drug comes with different side effects.  From the help of Health.com and WebMD here I will list some of the possible side effects from each category of stimulants, nonstimulants, and antidepressants:

Stimulant Side Effects:

  • Decreased appetite. About 80% of people have decreased appetite. The appetite is usually least during the daytime, increasing in the evening. If the medicine is given after meals and snacks are added, especially in the evening, it may help improve the child’s appetite and prevent weight loss.
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Stomachache
  • Headache
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Blood Glucose Changes
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Gastointesinal upset
  • Slightly increased blood pressure (in black males)

Nonstimulant Side Effects:

  • Upset stomach
  • Decreased appetite, which may lead to weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mood swings
  • Sleepiness and sedation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Heart rhythm changes
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Slowed growth in children
  • Jaundice and liver problems
  • Serious allergic reactions

Antidepressant Side Effects:

  • Stomach upset
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Tremor
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty urinating

Now although medication treatment for ADHD shows definite improvement and quick results, there are many controversies that are being raised. One of the first main concerns of taking prescription drugs is primarily all of the adverse side effects that come along with the different types of drugs. Other issues of debate include things such as drug abuse/addiction, and the fact that the effect on the symptoms are only temporary, in which the medication does not cure nor does it address the victims individual problems.  The American Pyschological Association brings up the fact that many people are concerned that medication takes away from building skills, such as social skills and problem-solving skills, discouraging parents and children. Also, APA mentions the skyrocketing of numbers of prescriptions given out, suggesting that some children could possibly be misdiagnosed.

Now after learning about many of the aspects along the medication route, the next step is to find out what’s on the other side of the hill: the non-drug side. In my next blog, I will discuss and you will learn all about non-drug treatments for ADHD. That way, after you get the general idea and understanding of the two, you will be able to follow along in my side-by-side comparison in my last blog.

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