What you need to know before your child is started on ADHD Medications

Girl on ADHD Medications

Clinical evidence shows that treatment for ADHD is very effective in controlling the symptoms of ADHD.  It works even better in combination with behavioral strategies.  These days the several different types of ADHD medications.  After the confirmation of ADHD diagnosis, if parents want to try meds, I discuss various options. They broadly can be categorized into 2 groups  stimulant and non-stimulants.  Various ADHD medications act differently on the brain  and also have  different spectrum of side effects.

The choice of medication depends on desired goals as well as anticipated side effects.  For example if a child  already does not have a good appetite I would avoid stimulants because it can reduce appetite and sometimes can also cause weight loss. On the other hand a child whose weight is ahead of his height may benefit from stimulants as they depress appetite. I like to talk to family about any family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or substance abuse with your doctor.

Stimulant medication usually start working within half an hour to 1 hour.  The onset of action actually depends on  the dose and  formulation.  Short acting stimulants have to be administered more than once daily usually 2-3 times.  Long-acting stimulants can be given on the  once a day.  Different formulations of ADHD medications with same ingredient can result in different effects as well as side effects. Non-stimulant medications may take up to 2 or 3 weeks before a beneficial effect is seen.

Administration of ADHD Medications:

Stimulant medications are given in the morning and if you miss a dose then you should never double up the dose. Some medications can be sprinkled on food and can be mixed in water or juice such as Biphentin and Vyvanse. These medications are tasteless. On the other hand you can not open capsule of Strattera (non stimulant) as it is very bitter. You also can not break tablet of Intuniv or Concerta as they are long acting and gradual release of medication mechanism is disrupted by breaking the capsule.

Side Effects of ADHD Medications:

Stimulant medication can cause several side effects including headaches, reduced appetite, difficulty in falling asleep, abdominal pain.  Some children may experience worsening of symptoms when medication is radiating off in the afternoon or evening.  Some children also experience emotional outbursts  and may  cry on and free lives with pending particularly for first few days.  Generally this emotional response.  Soft and stimulant medication do not change the personality of the child. Serious side effects are rare, that may include dizziness, fainting, severe irritability or serious behavioral changes.


Patient education: Treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children (Beyond the Basics)

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