ADHD Medications (cont.)
Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD
Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.
In this Article
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications facts
- What are ADHD medications?
- What are the different types of ADHD drugs?
- What are the differences among the ADHD drugs?
- Are any side effects associated with ADHD medications?
- What are the precautions for ADHD drugs?
- Are ADHD medications associated with drug interactions?
What are ADHD medications?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (often referred to as ADD or ADHD) is a disorder that is characterized by hyperactivity or restlessness, trouble concentrating, and/or trouble controlling one's impulses. It is one of the most common conditions of childhood and adolescence. Most experts agree that this condition affects 8%-10% of school-age children and that more than 40% of children with ADHD grow up into adults with this disorder.
Rather than having any single cause, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) develops from both genetic and life experience risk factors. Individuals with ADHD tend to have problems developing efficient self-regulation skills and decision-making abilities. Biologically, ADHD is a neurochemical and neuroanatomical disorder. People with ADHD have several chemicals in the brain that are not present in the right quantities in the right places at the right times. These chemicals may work sometimes but not consistently, and they are not under the individual's control. This is why people with ADHD have variable performance. Also, some nerve groups seem to be a bit out of position in the brain, causing delays or accelerations of nerve signals.
ADHD medications are designed to increase the ability of the ADHD sufferer to pay attention and manage their impulses and activity level. They also sometimes are used to treat people who suffer from sleep attacks (narcolepsy), chronic fatigue, or to boost the effect of antidepressant medication.
Most ADHD medications increase the amount of two brain chemicals that are used by nerve cells to communicate with one another (neurotransmitters), namely dopamine (DA) and/or norepinephrine. These chemicals have been associated with attention, pleasure, and movement. Although the chemical properties of other ADHD medications like Tenex or Intuniv (guanfacine) and Catapres or Kapvay (clonidine) are known, it is not fully understood how they affect the symptoms of ADHD.
Some medical marijuana advocates have begun to propose marijuana for the treatment of ADHD due to marijuana's effects of decreasing activity and anxiety levels. However, marijuana's addiction potential and side effect -- like impaired memory, judgment, and coordination, mood changes, low motivation, and possible psychosis -- in addition to the lack of research of its benefits for ADHD, keep the use of this drug from being a viable treatment for this disorder. While some over-the-counter medications for adult weight loss, like ephedrine, may improve focus and alertness, their appetite suppression and abuse potential preclude their being a viable option for treatment of a chronic condition like ADHD.
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