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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - Treatment Overview

Treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) relies on a combination of medicines and behavior therapy. The first step is an accurate diagnosis of ADHD and an understanding of your child's strengths and weaknesses. Learning about ADHD will help you and your child's siblings better understand how to help your child.

Medicines

Your child's doctor may recommend that your child take a stimulant medicine. These medicines include amphetamine (for example, Adderall or Dexedrine) and methylphenidate (for example, Concerta, Metadate CD, or Ritalin). Stimulants improve symptoms in about 70 out of 100 children who have ADHD.1

If stimulant medicines have bothersome side effects or aren't effective, your child's doctor might recommend a nonstimulant medicine such as atomoxetine (Strattera), clonidine (Kapvay), or guanfacine (Intuniv). These medicines may be used alone or in combination with stimulant medicines.

ADHD: Should My Child Take Medicine for ADHD?

Behavior therapy

Through behavior therapy, parents learn strategies, such as positive reinforcement, to improve a child's behaviors. Children learn skills for problem solving, communication, and self-advocacy. Behavior therapy is more helpful when used with medicine than when used by itself.

Some children with ADHD also have other conditions, such as anxiety or oppositional defiant disorder. Behavior therapy can help treat some of these conditions.

Counseling may help children and adults who have ADHD recognize problem behaviors and learn ways to deal with them. For both parents and children, counseling can be a place to air frustrations and deal with stress. To learn more, see Other Treatment.

There are many things you can do to help your child at home and at school. To learn more, see Home Treatment.

ADHD in adults

Many adults don't realize that they have ADHD until their children are diagnosed. Then they begin to recognize their own symptoms. Some adults with ADHD learn to manage their lives and find careers in which they can use their intellectual curiosity and creativity to their advantage. But many adults have difficulties at home and work.

Like children with ADHD, adults may benefit from medicine combined with psychological support. This support includes education about the disorder, support groups and/or counseling, and skills training. Skills training may include:

Stimulant medicines may be used in adults who have ADHD. These medicines can help a person focus better. And they can help decrease hyperactivity and impulsivity. If stimulant medicines have bothersome side effects or aren't effective, your doctor might recommend other medicines. Some examples are atomoxetine (Strattera), clonidine (Kapvay), and guanfacine (Intuniv).

Certain antidepressants are sometimes also recommended. These include bupropion (for example, Wellbutrin) and tricyclics (for example, desipramine, imipramine, and nortriptyline).

What to think about

There are several myths that can get in the way of understanding ADHD. It is important to understand that ADHD is a medical problem that is best managed with treatment. Your child is more likely to control symptoms when he or she actively takes part in treatment, such as taking medicines on time.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 02, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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