Medications work differently for everyone; there can be a lot of trial and error when finding the right medication. Speak with your medical provider or pharmacist about any questions or concerns you may have about medications or other treatment regimens.
How does ADHD medication help the ADHD brain?
ADHD medications help individuals with ADHD gain the clarity needed to deal with the various challenges and symptoms of ADHD. Some of the most common ADHD symptoms that can be treated with medication include:
- Motivation deficits
- Emotional dysregulation (including anger and Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria)
- Brain fog
- Forgetfulness (poor "working memory")
It should be noted that ADHD medications are just one of the many tools in an ADHDers psychological treatment toolbox. Treating any psychological condition or mental illness is about taking a balanced, holistic approach, and should be based on the individual's unique circumstances. Because the seemingly endless list of medication options can be a bit overwhelming, let's start by separating ADHD medications into three categories:
- Methylphenidate-based stimulants
- Amphetamine-based stimulants
What are your options for ADHD medication?
Below, ADHD medications are separated into three main categories. Within the 2 stimulant categories, medications are separated further based on the timing of the medications' release in the body. Extended release (XR, ER) medications can last for 8-12 hours, intermediate release for 4-8 hours, and immediate release (IR) for up to 4 hours. (Note: not all of the listed medications have different types of releases; some just have one or two.)
- Clonidine (kapvay)
- Guanfacine* (intuniv)
- Qelbree (viloxazine)
- Strattera (atomoxetine)
- Wellbutrin (bupropion)
*Shown to be effective for treating ADHD symptoms attributed to emotional dysregulation, such as Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria
Methylphenidate-based stimulant medications
- Aptensio XR
- Contempla XR
- Dexmethylphenidate ER
- Focalin XR
- Jornay PM
- Metadate ER
- QuilliChew ER
- Quillivant XR
- Ritalin LA (long-acting)
- Ritalin SR (sustained release)
- Methylphenidate IR
Amphetamine-based stimulant medications
- Adderall XR
- Adzenys XR
- Dexedrine (spansule)
- Dextroamphetamine ER (D-amphetamine salt combo)
- Dyanavel XR
- Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)
- Adderall IR
- Dextroamphetamine (D-amphetamine salt combo)
The science of ADHD medication
Are you interested in knowing more about what's happening inside your body when you take ADHD medication? The YouTube video from "What in the ADHD?" below explains the scientific differences between stimulant and nonstimulants. It also includes information on how the drug efficacy (effectiveness) is affected by certain foods (such as those containing citric acid or vitamin C), side effects to watch for, and how to determine which medication would be best for you.
Talking to your doctor
If talking about your mental health challenges is uncomfortable for you, you’re not alone. I've been there myself. It's okay to be nervous about talking about your mental health, treatment, and medication. I mean - I’m currently training for a career that focuses on mental health and addictions, and I still get nervous when I discuss my medication needs! I like to write down my questions and concerns and save them for the next time I see my physician or pharmacist. It wasn’t easy at first, but I now have a very good relationship with them. We always make room for questions at the end of my appointments.
If you're looking for more information on possible side effects of ADHD medications, you can find it here!
Like all medication, ADHD prescription drugs affect everyone differently. Not to mention, ADHD treatment options are endless, which can feel a bit overwhelming. We hope that this guide contributed to your understanding of ADHD medication, and helped you navigate this complex and sometimes-controversial topic. I also wanted to share this gentle reminder:
Your ADHD-related challenges are valid, but they do not define you. That applies to your treatment needs, too. Taking medication to cope with your ADHD is valid - ADHD is hard to deal with. But also, that medication doesn’t define you.