You've seen your doctor and made the decision: It's time to get your ADHD under control. But you may wonder, is the medicine you need safe for the long haul?
If you're an adult, most of the long-term worry about ADHD meds has to do with how they affect other conditions you have.
Your doctor will examine you, and together you can create a plan that keeps you healthy and helps your focus.
Side effects and risks associated with the long-term use of ADHD medication include:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Abuse and addiction
- Skin discolorations
Heart Disease or High Blood Pressure
1. Seizure or Irregular Heartbeat
Another ADHD medication, atomoxetine (Strattera), isn't a stimulant, but it has been linked to seizures and irregular heartbeats. The FDA suggests people with a history of those problems stay away from it.
2. Abuse or Addiction
Some people misuse ADHD stimulant drugs. They might crush the pills and snort them to get high, which can lead to a dangerous overdose.
If you don't have a history of substance abuse, it's unlikely you'll go down that road. But if you do, you could be at risk for misusing your ADHD drugs.
Talk to your doctor honestly about your past or current drug abuse. They can help you decide if ADHD drugs are OK for you.
3. Psychiatric Problems
ADHD drugs may be tied to some mental health issues, but it's rare. For instance, some people have reported behavior problems like aggression and hostility. Others say they developed symptoms of bipolar disorder.
The FDA has also warned that there's a slight risk that stimulant ADHD drugs could lead to mood swings or symptoms of psychosis -- like hearing things and paranoia.
4. Skin Discoloration
The methylphenidate transdermal system (Daytrana) skin patch has been linked to a skin condition known as chemical leukoderma. This condition causes permanent loss of skin pigmentation at the place where the patch is applied.
How to Weigh the Risks
Work with your doctor. Together you can decide if ADHD meds are safe for you.
Your doctor may want to run a few tests to see if you have conditions that might not mix well with ADHD drugs. For instance, they can check to see if you have high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, or other kinds of heart disease.
Other conditions might bump up your risks from ADHD drugs. Tell your doctor if you have one of these:
- Allergy or sensitivity to stimulants
- Liver or kidney disease
- History of mental illness
- Motor tics or Tourette's syndrome
- Overactive thyroid
Let them know if you're taking other medicines or supplements. Some could react badly with ADHD drugs.
Once you start taking your ADHD medicine, see your doctor for regular checkups to make sure you aren't having any bad side effects.
Keep in mind, ADHD drugs are generally safe. The chance of serious problems is low. For lots of people, the benefits of treatment outweigh the risks.