Medication for ADHD
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 6.4 million children between 5 and 17 years old have been diagnosed with ADHD. For those with this disorder, there are safe and effective treatments. Years of extensive research, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, has proven the most effective treatments for children age six and older are stimulant medication and/or parental behavior therapy. In the 70 to 80 percent of individuals of all ages taking stimulant medication, significant improvement is achieved in the core ADHD symptoms of distractibility, hyperarousal, and impulsivity.
Effective and safe medication management starts with an accurate diagnosis to ensure the medication prescribed is treating the right symptoms. With the confidence in knowing you or your child is in the care of a specialist, your provider at KEGE Center for ADHD will work closely with you to find the optimal FDA approved medication and dose. Whether your treatment is for ADHD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, mood, or another disorder, the decision to start any medication will be made in collaboration between you and your provider. You will be guided in the decision-making process to choose the best medicine based on its risk and benefits, potential side effects, and expected results. Our providers are psychopharmacology experts capable of managing all your psychiatric medications.
All new patients to the KEGE Center for ADHD start with a 120-minute psychiatric evaluation with a board-certified psychiatric provider.
During the initial evaluation, a primary diagnosis is made with a high degree of certainty, in addition to the assessment for one of the many co-occurring conditions associated with ADHD, such as insomnia, mood disruption, anxiety, and others. Research suggests the presence of one or more co-occurring conditions in 70 percent of children with diagnosed ADHD.
After the initial psychiatric evaluation, medication management follow-up appointments last 30 minutes and are scheduled every 10-12 weeks once the dose and symptoms are stable. If symptoms are severe, complex, or medications and dosing are being adjusted, more frequent appointments may be necessary to help you or your child feel better. In our experience, patients typically achieve improvement in their symptoms within 4 to 8 weeks. We offer convenient follow-up appointments for medication management in-person or via video visits.
All new patients to the KEGE Center for ADHD start with a comprehensive 120-minute psychiatric evaluation with a provider after a free consultation. During this evaluation, a primary diagnosis is made with a high degree of certainty, along with the assessment for the many co-occurring conditions associated with ADHD, such as insomnia, mood disruption, anxiety, and others. Research suggests the presence of one or more co-occurring conditions in 70% of children and 47% of adults with diagnosed ADHD.
How is ADHD medication taken?
Stimulant medication comes in immediate-release (IR), sustained-release (SR), or extended-release XR formulations. While immediate-release stimulants require dosing two to three times a day, extended-release stimulants can be taken once a day in the morning. Some patients find that a long-acting medication “wears off” early in the day and require an afternoon “booster” of an immediate-release medication.
Non-stimulant medications may be prescribed once daily or more often depending on the medication and the symptoms they are intended to treat.
For children who have difficulty swallowing pills, there are liquid medications, chewable pills, or capsules that can be opened and sprinkled on food or mixed with a liquid.
How long does ADHD medication take to work?
Parents can see beneficial results in their child within 30 to 60 minutes of taking a proper dose of stimulant medication and depending on the formulation. For children with impulsivity and hyperactivity, the results can be quite dramatic, but less obvious for children with the inattentive type.
Non-stimulant medications can take a couple of weeks before a therapeutic response is achieved. When ADHD medication is effective, the severity of many of the symptoms will lessen. Behavioral therapy may help with any lingering symptoms.
Can my child take a break from medication?
Some parents want their children to take a break from their stimulant medication on weekends, holidays, and school breaks. There used to be a belief that stimulant medication “stunts growth in children” and the breaks helped the children “catch up.” This is unfounded. ADHD does not take a break. Your child with ADHD has it 24/7, 365 days a year. So, the choice to hold the stimulant medication depends on the severity of the untreated symptoms. We have some parents that give medication every day because their child’s impulsivity and hyperactivity is so severe. Other parents take breaks from medication on weekends and school breaks because their child does not need it to concentrate (predominantly inattentive type).
For older children and teens, ADHD medication can help them outside of school to complete homework, participate in extracurricular activities, pay attention while driving, resist the impulse to engage in vaping, smoking, substance use, and risky behavior.
Taking breaks from non-stimulant medication is not as straight forward. These medications need to be taken daily due to their method of action. Missing doses may undermine their benefit and result in withdrawal effects.
Will my child's personality be changed on ADHD medication?
When prescribed properly, stimulants and other ADHD medications help most children to become better able to focus and concentrate and to reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, but they do not change a child’s personality. Children may not always agree with observations from their parents or teachers about their behavior or their personality while on medication. The ability to report changes in their internal feelings tends to increase with development. Children in 2nd or 3rd grade may report no changes in how they feel even though they are much improved.
Teens and older children may notice that they can concentrate more in class and might be less bored or restless. However, adolescents also may perceive that medication makes them less appealing, lively, or friendly to their peers. Despite the noticeable positive effects of their medication, they may refuse to take it because they worry their peers will reject them.
With that said, if you, the parents, notice a personality change (such as a lack of emotional response) or if your child is continually irritable while taking medication, the dose of the medication may be too high for them. Please talk to your provider about your observations.
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NEXT: Therapy & Coaching
While medications are proven effective at treating ADHD, learn about the benefits of therapy and coaching.