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ADD & ADHD Health Center

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Stimulant Drugs for ADHD

Stimulant drugs are the treatment most often used for ADHD. They can help you manage symptoms, such as:

  • Short attention span
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Hyperactivity

They may be the only treatment you use, or you can try them along with behavior therapy.

Recommended Related to ADD-ADHD

Treating Adult ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a childhood condition that can last into adulthood in about one-third of cases. If you've been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, chances are good that your doctor has prescribed a medication -- typically a stimulant -- and suggested cognitive behavioral therapy or even a life coach. She might also have suggested a good pocket planner. Treating ADHD in adults requires a multi-pronged approach. Symptoms are generally treated with medicine. But...

Read the Treating Adult ADHD article > >

These drugs help ADHD symptoms in about 70% of adults and 70% to 80% of children. They tend to cut down on hyperactivity, interrupting, and fidgeting. They can also help a person finish tasks and improve his or her relationships.

As long as the medication is taken, people see better attention span and behavior. Even though there is some debate about whether social skills or performance at school gets better, there are many people who benefit from them.

Are Stimulants Addictive?

Stimulants aren’t habit-forming in the doses used to treat ADHD in children and teens. And there is no evidence that taking them leads to drug abuse. In fact, studies have shown that people with ADHD who are treated with medication have lower rates of substance abuse than people with ADHD who are not treated.

Still, there is a potential for abuse and addiction with any stimulant medication. This is especially true if the person taking them has a history of substance abuse and addiction. It’s something you may want to take into consideration.

Common Stimulants for ADHD

There are many stimulants available to treat ADHD: short acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting forms.

The short-acting forms are usually taken two or three times a day, and the long-acting ones just once a day. The benefit of short-acting is that you have more control over when you have medication in your system. The downside is you have to remember to take them often.

A positive of the long-acting type is that you don’t have to remember to take them as often. They may also cut down on some side effects. But it may be harder to wind down at night until you get your medication dose and timing right.

Common stimulants include:



  • Dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Dexedrine spansule)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin SR, Metadate ER, Methylin ER)


Most are pills, but sometimes medication can be in a patch that is put on the skin or in a liquid.

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