The most prescribed medications are classified as "stimulants" which work by affecting the chemicals responsible for signals in the brain. The level of neurotransmitters (dopamine and norepinephrine) in the brain are increased. This increase can help one settle down and focus.
To see a listing of medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of ADHD, click on http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/ADHD/default.htm which also has links to label information and side effect warnings.
"Off Label Medication" is a phrase that describes a drug that's okayed by the FDA for a certain treatment but the prescribing doctor is using it for something else. It has NOT been approved by the FDA the way the doctor wants to use it. Off-Label medications that are sometimes used to treat ADHD include Symmetrel, Survector/Maneon, Didrex, Wellbutrin, Clonidine, Provigil/Alertec/Sparlon, Cylert, Edronax and Selegiline. Many of these have detrimental side effects, not found to be effective, or haven't been properly studied yet in the USA.
No medication is without side effects. Every person's response is different. If one medication is not tolerated well, then it can be stopped under the doctor's guidance, and a new one started up. There are many facts and myths about ADHD medications:
- Some people think tics might develop or existing ones get worse. There is no increase that is considered by the medical community to be "statistically significant."
- Some people have heard that ADHD medications stunt a child's growth. In reality, growth might slow down but the child catches back up during those typical growth spurt years. Everyone reaches the size they were supposed to reach. In the long run, no one ended up being unusually short or small.
- There is the side effect of weight loss or not gaining weight. This is probably due to a decreased appetite, caused by certain medications. Like height, the weight will eventually reach what is "normal" for the child. Make sure the patient eats very healthy during their stay on ADHD medication.
- There is a controversy over whether or not there have been adverse effects on the heart while on some ADHD medications. Research has found that those who suffered cardiovascular problems had previous, perhaps unknown, heart conditions but the connection between the problems and medications were never scientifically proven. Now, to be on the safe side, doctors order ECG's, EKG's and/or ultrasounds to rule out heart conditions before starting their patients. Blood pressure and pulse should be regularly checked by the prescribing physician.
- There have been a few cases of psychiatric side effects for patients. The patient and family must watch for changes in thinking or depression. The doctor will also interview the patient at each follow-up visit.
- Some ADHD drugs have resulted in dependance, usually caused by long-term overdose. Always only take what the doctor prescribes and never give, share or sell ADHD medication to someone else.
- There is also the misinformation that children who take ADHD medication will grow up to be drug addicts. Studies have actually proved the opposite - when a patient follows the prescription, he or she succeeds and does well in school, gaining a healty self-esteem. ADHD suffers who don't take medication suffer from failure and ridicule as they grow up, often turning to drugs and alcohol as ways to block out the pains of the real world.
My daughter is on the smallest dose of Adderall. Her EKG was abnormal so we got an ultrasound -ends up there was a glitch in the EKG. Nothing was wrong with her heart. We have noticed zero side effects. The doctor takes her blood pressure and pulse at every follow-up visit and asks questions about depression to make sure all is going okay.
Good luck to you!