There is no cure for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but there are a multitude of medications approved to treat the condition. (For the best treatment outcome, the National Institute of Mental Health says a combination of medication and behavioral therapy should be used. 1

Once you or your child has been given a formal diagnosis of ADHD following an evaluation by a neurologist or psychologist, she can recommend a stimulant or non-stimulant medication to help manage symptoms. Finding the right medication and dose to effectively manage ADHD symptoms can take time. So it’s important to keep track of how long the effects of the medication last, and to also note any bothersome side effects.

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Stimulants & Non-Stimulants

Currently, two types of drugs are approved to treat ADHD: stimulants and non-stimulants.

Stimulants. Stimulant drugs are the most commonly used medications to treat ADHD.  Stimulants work by increasing brain chemicals, including dopamine, that are critical for transmitting messages between brain neurons. In kids, 70 to 80 percent show improvement in symptoms within one to two hours of taking the medication. In adults, 70 percent report noticeable improvement from stimulants within hours of using the medication.2

The two generic stimulants, also known as central nervous system stimulants, that are widely used to treat ADHD are methylphenidate (Concerta, Aptensio XR) and dextro-amphetamine (Adderall).

Non-stimulants. In cases where a stimulant drug is not well tolerated or  preferred, a doctor will recommend a non-stimulant such as atomoexetine (Straterra), which helps increase a brain chemical called norepinephrine. This chemical can help improve focus, while tamping down impulsiveness and hyperactivity. Clonidine (Kapvay) and Guanfacine (Intuniv) are also non-stimulants and work slightly differently to achieve similar effects.


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Last Updated: Jan 10, 2020