The Right ADHD Treatment for You

You can treat the symptoms of adult ADHD with medications, counseling, or both. You’ll work with your doctor to figure out what’s best for you.

ADHD is different for everyone, so there’s no one treatment for all. Your treatment plan will depend on lots of things, including how the disorder affects your life, other conditions you might have, and any medications you take for them.

Medication can help get your symptoms under control by treating the way your brain thinks. And counseling can give you skills to manage your day-to-day life. It teaches you how to tackle problems the disorder may cause, like losing things, being easily distracted, or being late.


Stimulant Medications

Most people getting treated for ADHD take these prescription meds. They might help you pay attention longer, and help your brain send and receive signals so you can think more clearly. They can keep you from acting on impulse, too.

Stimulants your doctor might prescribe include:

Once you agree on a medication, your doctor will probably prescribe a low dose and see if it helps your symptoms. If it doesn’t, you may need to increase the dose slowly or try something else.

Many of these medications come in both short- and long-acting forms. Short-acting drugs wear off after about 4 hours. You take them two times a day. Long-acting drugs can last 8 to 12 hours, and you take them once a day. Talk with your doctor to decide which works best for your life, and to figure out the best time of day to take your medication.

You shouldn’t take stimulants if you have certain conditions like heart disease, glaucoma, or a history of alcohol or drug abuse. If you take an antidepressant, you should talk to your doctor before taking a stimulant, too.

Side effects include dry mouth, loss of appetite, insomnia, and headaches the cases of patches (Daytrana) the potential for permanent loss of skin pigmentation. Some side effects go away on their own after a few days or weeks. Some don’t, but you may find the benefits are worth dealing with the side effects. If the side effects bother you, your doctor might change your dose or suggest another medication.

Don’t stop taking any medication suddenly without telling your doctor.



Your doctor might prescribe one of these meds, like atomoxetine (Strattera), if stimulants aren’t right for you. It raises levels of a chemical in the brain that helps control behavior.

The antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin) might also be used, but it’s not FDA-approved for adult ADHD.

Non-stimulants might take a few weeks to begin working, and you might have side effects including heartburn, constipation, and low sex drive. These might go away over time.

Blood Pressure Medications

If you can’t take other meds, your doctor might prescribe one of two blood pressure drugs: clonidine (Kapvay) or guanfacine (Intuniv, Tenex). These medications can help you manage symptoms like impulsivity and hyperactivity.

The side effects include dry mouth, dizziness, headache, and sleepiness.


Your doctor can also refer you to a counselor or therapist who can help you tackle the everyday problems that ADHD can bring.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can teach you how to:

  • Manage your time.
  • Make plans for both the near future and further down the road.
  • Cope with your emotions.
  • Handle stress.
  • Change your self-image if it isn’t very good.
  • Think things through before taking action.
  • Avoid taking unnecessary risks.

Counseling can also teach you ways to remember things better and show you how to use calendars and date books to give your days structure.

Over time your symptoms may change, and treatments that work at first might stop working. Your doctor and counselor will help you work through these changes by tweaking your treatment plan.

There are things you can do on your own, too.

Also, consider joining a support group to connect with other adults who are living with ADHD.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on May 10, 2017



National Institute of Mental Health. “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.”

National Resource Center on ADHD. “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adults with ADHD,” “Symptoms and Diagnostic Criteria,” “Managing Medication for Adults with ADHD.”

Cleveland Clinic. “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Stimulant Therapy.”

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “DrugFacts: Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines.”

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “ADHD: Not Just for Kids.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Atomoxetine.”

American Heart Association. “Types of Blood Pressure Medications.”

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