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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Smarter Treatments Ahead for ADHD

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Ritalin, the safest and most effective drug used to treat ADHD, clearly exerts an effect on these executive actions. Recent studies from the Brookhaven National Laboratory show that people with ADHD overproduce a kind of scavenger that removes an important brain chemical. Ritalin blocks these scavengers.

Unfortunately, Ritalin wears off after a few hours. Moreover, second and third doses given in the same day have to be larger than the first dose. This is one problem with the drug -- it may not be working most effectively at the time a child needs it the most.

New once-a-day formulations deliver the drug found in Ritalin in a way that smoothes out the peaks and valleys that come from three-times-a-day dosing. These delivery systems make the drug work better, says James M. Swanson, PhD, an ADHD researcher at the University of California, Irvine.

Swanson says that other new drugs now in development differ from Ritalin in that they target other brain chemicals that affect executive function. It is hoped that one day different drugs -- or different combinations of drugs - will allow doctors to fine-tune ADHD treatment.

"We need to be more aware of integrated, targeted, and synchronized treatments," Tannock says. "As we begin to understand more the neurological networks, we will be better able to target ADHD treatment."

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