Medication is an important part of the overall treatment plan for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Doctors often prescribe stimulant medications or other drugs to control ADHD symptoms. The symptoms include:
short attention span
Like any medicine, ADHD drugs can have side effects. And they don't work in exactly the same way for every child. So when doctors prescribe these drugs, they have to work individually with each child over a period of time to find the exact dosage that is most effective with the fewest side effects.
To achieve this balance, experts recommend using a system called titration. While monitoring for any changes, a child is started on a low dose of medicine. The dose is gradually increased as needed to control symptoms and side effects.
ADHD medication dosages should always be tailored to the needs of the individual child. The goal of titration is to find the dose of medicine that effectively controls your child's symptoms without causing serious side effects.
The doctor will start your child on a low dose of medicine. The dosage will gradually be increased every one to three weeks until your child's ADHD symptoms are controlled or side effects develop.
Your child will need to be on each medication dose for approximately a week. That will give you and your doctor a good idea of whether it's working and to what extent your child may be experiencing any side effects.
Some side effects gradually decrease over time. So it's important not to make changes too quickly, particularly if the medication is effective at controlling symptoms.
When creating a titration plan, the doctor should take not only your child's size and symptoms into consideration, but also your child's daily schedule and your family's needs.
Types of Drugs for ADHD
The first drugs doctors commonly turn to when treating children with ADHD are stimulant medicines such as:
It is thought that these medicines improve ADHD symptoms by making more of the chemical messenger dopamine available to the brain. Dopamine is found in areas of the brain that control mood and attention.
Stimulant drugs can have side effects. These include:
appetite decrease with weight loss over time
Doctors may also consider prescribing a nonstimulant drug such as Strattera (atomoxetine). It works somewhat differently than stimulants. It mainly affects a different chemical messenger -- norepinephrine -- which is also involved in attention, mood, and impulse control.