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ADHD Medications and Their Side Effects



Many people think that ADHD medications are given to cure the disease.  This isn't the case at all!  ADHD medications are designed merely to manage the symptoms as best as possible.  The medications only have an effect as long as the medication is in the system.  Once the medication is out (usually in a few hours) the symptoms will come right back.  As you can tell, this is not ideal, but depending on the severity of the case, the temporary help that the medications afford may seem worthwhile. 


Before taking any medication, it is highly recommended that you research  the side effects that the medication is known to cause so you are aware of the risks that you are taking.


Stimulant medications:


This type of medication is the most common type prescribed for ADHD.  They have been used the longest and have the most research for backing up any clamed effectiveness.  This class of medication includes the popular medications such as Ritalin, Adderall and Dexedrine.


It  is believe they work on ADHD symptoms by increasing the dopamine levels in the brain.  This is a neurotransmitter that is present when a person feels pleasure, or gets attention or when they are highly motivated.  Dopamine levels tend to boost concentration and focus and decrease impulsive behaviors. 


Most of the medications in this class have a short acting and a long-acting form.  The short acting medications need to be taken 2-3 times per day.  The long acting are usually preferred because people with ADHD will often forget to take their medications during the day.


Common side effects of this class of drugs are:

Feeling Restless and Jittery                                         Irritability and mood swings                                        Difficulty sleeping

Depression                                                                       Loss of appetite                                                                 Dizziness

Headaches                                                                       Racing heart                                                                        Tics


Personality changes are also noted.  Some people become withdrawn, listless, rigid or less spontaneous and talkative.  Then people can become obsessive-compulsive.   Because they often raise blood pressure, experts worry about the dangers of taking this type of drug over a long period of time.


The long term effects on a developing brains, is not yet known.  There are a number of researchers that are concerned that the use of drugs like Ritalin in children and teens might interfere with normal bran development.  As a parent, this is the most obvious concern and one that I think needs the most attention.  The truth is that what happens to the kids of today who are taking these drugs, is how we will find out what the long term effects are of these drugs. 


Heart problems are also a concern.  Sudden death in children and adults have been noted when people who have heart conditions are taking these medications.


Psychiatric problems can be a very major risk.  Stimulants can trigger or exacerbate symptoms of hostility, aggression, anxiety, depression and paranoia.  People with a personal or family history of suicide, depression or bipolar disorder should be carefully monitored. 


Abuse of this drug is a growing problem. College students will take them for a boost when cramming for exams or pulling all-nighters.  They also have weight-loss properties. Monitor consumption of these drugs so your child isn't sharing his pills with others. 




Non-stimulant medications for ADHD like Strattera are used when stimulant medications are producing effects that are intolerable or haven't worked.  Strattera and its generic relatives have a high risk of promoting suicidal thoughts in people who take the drugs. 


Common side effects include:


Sleepiness                                    Headache                                               Abdominal pain

Nausea                                         Vomiting                                                 Upset stomach

Mood swings                               Insomnia                                                Appetite suppression




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