If controlled, a symptom free individual suffering from ADHD can live a normal life and be a successful adult in the future. According to professional bodies such as American Academy of Pediatrics, 70 – 80% of children with ADHD will respond to medications although the most effective treatment strategy is to combine both medications, counseling and appropriate social and lifestyle supports. However, according to experts, moderate to severe symptoms will immensely benefit by the use of drugs.
When considering the FDA approved medications for treating ADHD in children, there are several categories of drugs available in the market. The commonest form is the stimulant drugs or the psychostimulants which are available in both short acting and long acting forms. The next group of drugs are known as non-stimulants while anti-depressants and several other medications could be of use in certain instances.
Although scientists still search for clues in understanding its action, many believe it corrects the imbalance of neurotransmitters, which will enable proper transmission of signals and control of emotions. Thus, it has shown to reduce the hyperactivity and inattention to a certain extent and sometimes-marked reduction in symptoms becomes apparent.
There are several sub-classes of psychostimulants available for treatment and among them Methylphenidate-based Ritalin, Concerta and Metadate have been widely used. Amphetamine-based psychostimulats are the second category, which includes drugs such as Adderall and Dexedrine. Although both classes have shown to be equally effective, doctors tend to use former as the preferred choice while the second category remains as an alternative.
One of the drugs belonging to this group is Atomoxetine (Strattera) and it is used as an alternative when the stimulants fails in achieving symptom control or when there is significant side effects following use of stimulants. At the same time, it has shown to possess an added benefit of reducing the anxiety symptoms associated with ADHD. However, it can also lead to side effects such as poor appetite, sedation, and nausea.
Among the serious side effects of Strattera, liver problems and suicidal thinking can be highlighted although these are very rare in its occurrence.
When both stimulants and non-stimulants fail in achieving a significant benefit, antidepressants will be useful especially in the event when mood disorders co-exist with ADHD. Other medications: Although not directly approved for the use of ADHD, certain drugs have shown to be effective for some of the ADHD symptoms as well as in relieving side effects associated with first and second line ADHD medications. Some of the drugs belonging to this group include Clonidine and guanfacine.
Although different types of ADHD medications are available, it may take several months before doctors determine the most effective medication with the least side effects. The reason for this is the varied response displayed by each child in relation to specific medications. Thus, one may have to undergo several cycles of dose adjustments and drug replacements before the symptoms are adequately controlled.