Information on Medicating for ADHD

Different Types of Medication for ADHD

For children aged 6 and over or adults, medication may be an important part of the treatment plan. Finding the right medication to manage ADHD typically involves some trial and error but can lead to a significant reduction in symptoms.

The two main types of medication used to treat ADHD are stimulants and non-stimulants.

Central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, like Ritalin or Adderall, are the most prescribed ADHD medications. These ADHD medications work by increasing the amounts of the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which help with focus.

There are three categories of stimulant medications:

  • Short-acting (taken a few times a day)

  • Intermediate-acting (taken less often)

  • Long-acting (taken one a day)

If stimulants cause problematic side effects, or simply are not effective, your doctor may suggest trying a non-stimulant medication, like Strattera or Intuniv.

Non-stimulant ADHD medications are considered second-line or third-line treatments because the level of benefits and response rates are significantly lower. Meaning, stimulant medications are more effective at relieving symptoms for a larger percentage of people.

ADHD medications can have many benefits, as well as side effects. The decision to manage ADHD symptoms with medication can be a difficult one.

The Main Side Effects of Stimulant Medication

Loss of Appetite

This can be worrying at first as a parent. But explaining to your child that it is important to still try and eat something even if they don't feel like it, is a good way for them to build good habits around eating. Ensuring they have a big, protein filled breakfast and dinner will ensure they are getting nutrients at some point during the day. If they don't eat much lunch, its not the end of the world if they are having a good breakfast and dinner. If you are concerned about your child's weight, discuss with your GP or Paediatrician.

Trouble Sleeping

With or without stimulant medication, falling asleep can be difficult for someone with ADHD. This is where Melatonin is helpful. Also using strategies like no screen time 2 hours before bed, dim lights before bed, reading before bed or meditations/sleep music can be useful.

Other side effects may include:





Fast heart rate

High blood pressure

See your Doctor if any of these are a concern for you or your child.

Anita's Personal Experience

I started on half a tablet (2.5mg) of dexamphetamine for 3 days then increased to a full tablet (5mg)

For the first week or two, I suffered a lot of headaches and a fogginess. I also felt like I’d had a lot of coffee, so a bit jittery. But my brain did feel clearer in general.My sleep was also affected for the first few weeks.

The first couple of months I felt amazing. Felt more focussed and intentional. Things seemed a bit slower in my brain. I started to feel like I was managing everything a bit better. And then in general my anxiety reduced. It wasn’t noticeable straight away, but when I look back, I could tell I wasn’t feeling so anxious about everything.

That also meant I wasn’t feeling so overwhelmed all the time, or that the overwhelm was constantly building. I felt like I could actually cope with whatever was thrown at me. It wasn’t like I was totally zen in those situations, but I felt like I could cope rather than going from 0 to 100 with overwhelm, frustration and anger.

I didn’t like the ‘dip’ I felt when the fast acting dex wore off so I asked to go on a long acting one. So I started on 30mg of Vyvanse.

After a couple of months I noticed the dose was no longer working as well so I increased it. And continued to increase it until I felt I was at the right level. I am currently on 60mg which I feel is just right for me.

After my brain and body adjusted to the medication after about 6 months I didn’t feel as ‘amazing’ as I did in the first 2 months because that was kind of a novelty!

Medication doesn’t solve all ADHD problems at all. Like I said earlier, I just found that it gave me the ability to cope with the everyday and not feel the overwhelm so regularly or intensely. Which meant I could find solutions to problems I couldn’t before, or allowed space for self awareness and see where strategies or systems needed to be implemented.

Strategies and systems is the most important thing to implement to manage ADHD. Its understanding how we work individually and ignore the ways society has told us we need to do things or "should" do things and give ourselves permission to do it our own way. Medicating makes this process so much easier and clearer.

Head to the Resources page for strategies that are helpful when you have ADHD.