Note: This blog was written by our volunteer April; they are not a doctor. Please consult with a GP to find out more.
While ADHD is an incurable neurological condition, its symptoms can still be treated with different kinds of medication depending on the traits.
In the Storybooth animation that tells the story of Mack and her ADHD, she explains that she takes three different pills a day. “An antidepressant, a focus medicine and a medicine to help [her] sleep” as a basic explanations of ADHD medication.
Below are the main types of pill to help with ADHD symptoms and the brand names they prescribe under.
This is the most commonly used type of medication for people with ADHD. It is a stimulant that increases brain activity, especially in areas that “play a part in controlling attention and behaviour.”
This medication can be prescribed under brand names such as Ritalin and Methylin. It can be effective for 3 – 4 hours per short-acting dosage if it is taken 2 to 3 times per day or its effects can last all day If it is taken on a single long-acting dosage. It is usually taken in tablet form.
The NHS article about ADHD treatment states that this type of medication “may be offered to adults, teenagers and children over the age of 5 with ADHD”.” In contrast, the WebMD article about ADHD states that some stimulants can be given to children from the age of 3, while others can be given to children from the age of 6.
Dexamphetamine or Dextroamphetamine
These work in a similar way to Methylphenidate and can also be given to children with ADHD aged five and over according to the NHS.
Brand names of Dexamphetamine and Dextroamphetamine include Dexedrine, Zenzedi and Adderall.
These types of medication can be taken “as a tablet once or twice a day.” However, there is also an oral liquid solution available.
This works similarly to Methylphenidate, Dexamphetamine and Dextroamphetamine. It can be given to children with ADHD from the age of 5, but only “if at least six weeks of treatment with Methylphenidate has not helped.” Adults who have ADHD may also be offered Lisdexamfetamine instead of Methylphenidate.
Brand names for Lisdexamfetamine are Vyvanse in the form of a regular capsule that is best swallowed with fluids or Vyvanse Chewable, which is a chewable tablet.
This works differently from the stimulant above medications. It is a selective, noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). This means that it increases the amount of noradrenaline in the brain. Noradrenaline “passes messages between brain cells.” Increasing this chemical can help maintain concentration levels and control impulsive behaviour.
Children aged five and over, teenagers and adults may take Atomoxetine if it is not possible to take stimulants. Still, it is licenced for use by adults if they have confirmed symptoms of ADHD.
Atomoxetine is prescribed under the brand name of Strattera. It can be taken once or twice a day, and its effects can last for up to 24 hours.
This type of non-stimulant works on the brain to improve attention, and it also lowers blood pressure.
It can only be taken by children over five and teenagers if Methylphenidate or Lisdexamfetamine cannot be used, but not adults.
Brand names for Guanfacine include Intuniv and Tenex. While each can be taken once a day in the morning or the evening, the former can last up to 24 hours while the latter can last from 6 – 8 hours.
Antidepressants for ADHD include Bupropion (brand names Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR and Wellbutrin XL), Desipramine (brand name Norpramin), Imipramine (brand name Tofranil and Nortriptyline (brand names Aventyl and Pamelor). Their effects can last from 4 – 24 hours.
It is recommended that anyone who has ADHD and is thinking of taking medication to manage their symptoms discusses the risks and benefits of each medication type before taking them.
Medication might not work for all people who have ADHD. The actor Channing Tatum, who has ADHD, “is not a fan of prescription medicines” to treat it because “the more he took, the less it worked.”
Therapy may be more beneficial for people if medication does not work for them. Different types of therapy include psychoeducation, ordinary behaviour therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), parent training and education programmes for children with ADHD and social skills training.
Storybooth’s Living with ADHD video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkxmCZecGLk
NHS article about ADHD treatment: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/treatment/
HelpGuide’s article about ADHD Medications: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/medication-for-attention-deficit-disorder-adhd.htm
WebMd’s article about ADHD Medications and Side Effects: https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/adhd-medication-chart#1
WatchMojo.com’s Top 10 Inspirational People with ADHD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6LxfDFSZ0s&t=582s