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Tips to Ease ADHD Medication Side Effects in Adults

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Side Effects continued...

Since most side effects are minor, many people feel that the benefits of their medications outweigh the negatives. But when side effects are a problem, your doctor can help.

He might try to adjust the time you take the medicine or the dose. If that doesn’t work, he might try you on a different type of ADHD medication. Doctors can’t predict how well a specific medicine will work in any given person. Some people just do better on one drug than another, and it can take a few tries to find the right one.

Doctors occasionally treat adult ADHD with drugs that aren't FDA-approved for the condition. This is called “off label” use. Some of the drugs they might use include stimulants approved for children with ADHD, as well as a number of antidepressants and blood pressure medicines. Because these drugs have different side effects -- and benefits and risks – you should go over the specifics with your doctor.

ADHD Medications: Other Risks

While not typical side effects, some more serious risks linked to ADHD drugs have grabbed headlines in recent years. These include:

  • Heart risks. These medications can slightly raise blood pressure and heart rate. It’s not a serious concern for most people. But those with borderline high blood pressure sometimes find that the medicine bumps them into full-fledged high BP. There’s also some controversial evidence that ADHD medications may slightly increase life-threatening risks to people with underlying heart problems or other cardiac risk factors.
  • Psychiatric problems. ADHD medications may be tied to psychiatric problems. An FDA review of ADHD drugs found they may pose a small increased risk of psychosis -- for about 1 in 1,000 people. In these cases, the person may have symptoms such as auditory hallucinations, paranoia, and mania.  The nonstimulant atomoxetine (Strattera) carries an FDA warning -- like all antidepressant medications -- about potentially causing a slight increased risk of suicide in children or adolescents.
  • Drug Abuse. As with many drugs, short-acting stimulants have the potential for abuse. But experts believe the risk of abusing longer-acting stimulants is lower. Also, untreated ADHD poses an increased risk of substance abuse. Some studies of adult ADHD have found that taking medication actually lowers the risk of substance abuse, because the condition is better controlled.
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