What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common behavioral disorder that
causes inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. People with ADHD have a
hard time concentrating, sitting still, and controlling their impulsive
thoughts or behaviors. In addition, ADHD can lead to problems with memory and
Behavioral symptoms begin early in childhood and
lead to problems at school, at home, and with friends. Consequently, the child
may develop low self-esteem or symptoms of
depression if ADHD is left untreated.
What medicines are used to treat ADHD?
medicines most often used to treat ADHD are
stimulants, such as Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate CD,
Focalin, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Daytrana. These medicines affect the way the
brain controls impulses, behavior, and attention span. Some medicines are
short-term (last 4 hours) and others may last all day.
nonstimulant medicine called
atomoxetine (Strattera) has been approved for ADHD.
This medicine may be prescribed if stimulant medicines are not effective or if
they have lasting side effects. Strattera is not a controlled drug, which means
phone refills are allowed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has
advisory on Strattera. It suggests that parents and
other caregivers closely watch for
warning signs of suicide in children and teens taking
this medicine.4 The FDA does not recommend that people
stop using this medicine. Instead, people who use it need to be watched for
warning signs of suicide.
Other medicines may be used to treat
ADHD if stimulants have not been effective. Antidepressants (such as
Wellbutrin) may be helpful.
Antihypertensives (such as Catapres and Tenex) can
help control aggressive and impulsive behaviors in some people.
Stimulant medications with amphetamine, such as Adderall, that are used
for the treatment of ADHD are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) for children age 3 and older. Stimulant medications with methylphenidate,
such as Ritalin, are approved for children age 6 and older. A doctor may
prescribe Ritalin for a child under age 6 based on the child's specific needs.
What are the side effects of these medicines?
effects of medicines used to treat ADHD are usually mild and temporary, lasting
only a few weeks. The most common side effects of stimulants are decreased
appetite, difficulty falling asleep, stomachache, and headache. When the dose
is lowered, these side effects usually fade quickly.
short-term studies have shown that stimulant medicines are safe, long-term
effects have not been studied. In a recent 3-year study,
children who took stimulant medicine grew almost
0.5in. a year slower
than those children not on medicine. The study followed 540 youngsters with
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who were ages 7 to 9 at the
start of the study. More studies are needed to determine whether growth is
affected at other ages (younger than age 7, older than age 9) and whether
children taking these medicines might catch up over a period of time.2, 3 As with any medicine, parents
should balance the benefits their child might receive from these medicines with
any potential risks.
What are the risks of not treating ADHD?
goes untreated, your child is at greater risk for poor school performance.
Relationships with friends or family members may be troubled due to impulsive
or aggressive behaviors. Peers often reject children with uncontrolled ADHD,
which then leads to self-esteem problems for the child. It may be difficult for
the child to learn appropriate social skills that help him or her be accepted
by peers, teachers, and others. Some people with untreated ADHD have difficulty
finishing school or keeping a job and difficulty with relationships as they
If you need more information, see the topic
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.