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.
These drugs improve ADHD symptoms in about 70% of adults and 70% to 80% of children. They tend to reduce interruptive behavior, fidgeting, and other hyperactive symptoms, as well as help a person finish tasks and improve his or her relationships.
Improvements in behavior and attention span usually continue as long as the medication is taken, although benefits in social adjustment and school performance have not yet been shown to endure over the long term.
Stimulants are not considered to be habit-forming in the doses used to treat ADHD in children and adolescents, and there is no evidence that their use leads to drug abuse. Nonetheless, there is a potential for abuse and addiction with any stimulant medication, especially if a person has a history of substance abuse and addiction.
Common Stimulants for ADHD
There are many stimulants available to treat ADHD: short acting (immediate-release), intermediate-acting, and long-acting forms. Common stimulants include:
The short-acting forms of the drug are usually taken two or three times a day and the long-acting ones just once a day.
Newer forms of some stimulant drugs may reduce side effects and relieve symptoms for a longer period of time. They include Concerta (10-12 hour duration), Daytrana patch (7- 10 hours, depending on how long it is worn), Ritalin LA (6-8 hours), Metadate CD (6-8 hours), and Adderall XR (10-12 hours).
How Do Stimulants Work for ADHD?
For someone with ADHD, stimulants regulate impulsive behavior and improve attention span and focus by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which help transmit signals between nerves.