Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects many children and can persist into adulthood. Symptoms of ADHD include difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which can interfere with academic performance, work performance, and social relationships.
The treatment of ADHD involves a combination of psychoeducational, psychological and pharmacological interventions. In this article we will focus on medication for ADHD, which is one of the most common and effective options to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life of people with this condition.
What types of medications are there for ADHD?
ADHD medications fall into two main groups: stimulants and non-stimulants.
Stimulants are the best known and most used medications for ADHD. They work by increasing the availability of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, two neurotransmitters involved in attention, motivation and impulse control. Stimulants can improve the ability to concentrate, reduce distractibility, and decrease hyperactivity.
There are different types of stimulants, such as methylphenidate, lisdexamfetamine or dextroamphetamine. These drugs come with different durations of action (short, medium or long). The choice of the type of stimulant, the dose and the schedule will depend on the characteristics and needs of each person, as well as the availability in the country where you are.
Non-stimulants are an alternative for those who do not tolerate or respond to stimulants. These drugs act differently from stimulants, since they do not directly increase the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, but rather modulate their activity or their reuptake. Non-stimulants can have similar effects to stimulants on attention and behavior, but they usually take longer to take effect and may be less potent.
The main representative of non-stimulants is atomoxetine, a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Other drugs that have been used as non-stimulants are guanfacine, an alpha-2 adrenergic agonist, or bupropion, an antidepressant with dopaminergic and noradrenergic action.
What side effects can ADHD medications have?
ADHD medications are safe and effective when used under medical supervision and as directed by a qualified professional. However, like any drug, they may have some side effects that should be known and monitored.
The most common side effects of stimulants are:
– Decreased appetite and weight.
– Insomnia or difficulty sleeping.
– Irritability or nervousness.
– Headache or abdominal pain.
– Increased blood pressure or heart rate.
These effects are usually mild and transient, and can be minimized by adjusting the dose or schedule of the medication. In some cases, it may be necessary to change the type of stimulant or combine it with another drug.
The most common side effects of non-stimulants are:
– Nausea or vomiting.
– Drowsiness or fatigue.
– Dry mouth.
- Decreased appetite.
– Changes in mood.
These effects are also usually mild and transient, and can be reduced by starting treatment with low doses and gradually increasing them. In some cases, it may be necessary to stop the drug or change it to another.
What other considerations should be taken into account regarding ADHD medication?
ADHD medication is a useful tool to improve the symptoms and functioning of people with ADHD. However, it must be taken into account that:
- The medication does not cure ADHD, but rather relieves its manifestations while it is taken.
- Medication is not sufficient on its own to treat ADHD, but must be accompanied by other psychoeducational and psychological interventions that address the academic, work, social and emotional difficulties associated with the disorder.
- The medication must be prescribed by a specialized professional, who evaluates the person's characteristics, their medical and family history, their possible comorbidities and their expectations.
- Medication must be individually adjusted according to response and tolerance, which involves regular monitoring by the prescribing professional.
- Medication should be taken following the instructions of the prescribing professional, without modifying the dose or schedule without their consent.
- Medication should be combined with healthy habits such as a balanced diet, adequate hydration, regular physical activity and restful sleep.
ADHD medication is an effective therapeutic option for adults with this condition. There are different types of drugs that act on the neurotransmitters involved in attention and behavior. The most used are stimulants, but there are also alternatives such as non-stimulants. Side effects are usually mild and transient, and can be controlled by adjusting the dose or changing the drug. Medication must be prescribed by a specialized professional and must be accompanied by other psychoeducational and psychological interventions that address the overall needs of the disorder.