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 single treatment for all. Your care plan will depend on many things, including how the disorder affects your life, other health problems you have, and any medications you take for them.
Medicine can help get your symptoms under control by changing the way your brain works. 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, getting easily distracted, or being late.
Most people who get ADHD treatment 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:
- Amphetamine-based medicine (Adzenys, Dexedrine, Dyanavel, Evekeo, ProCentra, Vyvanse, Zenzedi)
- Methylphenidate-based medicine (Aptensio, Concerta, Cotempla, Daytrana, Metadate, Methylin, QuilliChew, Quillivant, Ritalin)
- Mixed salts of a single-entity amphetamine (Mydayis)
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 1 or 2 times a day. Long-acting or extended-release 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 routine, and to figure out the best time of day to take your medication.
You shouldn’t take stimulants if you have health problems like heart disease, glaucoma, or a history of alcohol or drug abuse. If you take an antidepressant, you should talk to your doctor before you take a stimulant, too.
Stimulants can cause side effects like dry mouth, loss of appetite, insomnia, and headaches. If you get your medicine through patches on your skin (Daytrana), they may change the color of your skin in that area. Some side effects go away on their own after a few days or weeks. Some don’t, but you may find the benefits of the medicine are worth dealing with the side effects. If the side effects bother you, your doctor might change your dose or suggest another drug.
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. They raise levels of a chemical in the brain that helps control behavior.
Your doctor might also suggest the antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin), but it’s not FDA-approved for adult ADHD.
Nonstimulants might take a few weeks to start working, and you might have side effects like heartburn, constipation, and low sex drive. These might go away over time.
If you can’t take other ADHD 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.
Supplements with omega-3s have shown some benefit. Omega-3s seem to reduce hyperactivity and behavioral problems in some kids with ADHD, but they take some time to show effects, usually 3-8 weeks. One option, Vayarin, is available by prescription only.
Counseling is another important part of ADHD treatment. Your doctor can refer you to a counselor or therapist who can help you tackle the everyday problems that the disorder 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
- Handle your emotions
- Deal with stress
- Change your self-image if you tend to think poorly of yourself
- Think things through before you take action
- Avoid taking unneeded 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 worked 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.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Get regular exercise.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Find ways to manage your stress, like meditation or yoga.
Also, think about joining a support group to connect with other adults who are living with ADHD.