Adult ADHD and Medication


What role does medication play?

The neurotransmitters implicated in ADHD are primarily dopamine and norepinephrine, which are involved in motivation, sustaining attention, mental alertness, and the ability to focus. Stimulant medication works by increasing levels of these neurotransmitters in the brain. A number of different medications can be used in the treatment of ADHD. You should speak with a psychiatrist if you believe you may benefit from ADHD medication.

  • Stimulants:  These are the most common medications used to treat ADHD. Common stimulant medications include Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin, Dexedrine, and Adderall.
  • Atomoxetine (Strattera) is an approved nonstimulant medicine for children, teens, and adults with ADHD
  • Antihypertensives, such as Catapres and Tenex, may be used to treat aggression and impulsivity not controlled by ADHD medicines
  • Antidepressants, such as bupropion (Wellbutrin) may also be used

Common ADHD Medications

Generic Name Brand Name
Dexmethylphenidate HCI Focalin, Focalin XR [sustained release, 8 to 12 hours]
Dextro-amphetamine sulfate Dexedrine [short-acting, 4 hours], Dexedrine Spansules [sustained release, 8 hours], Dextroamphetamine ER [extended release], Dextrostat
lisdexamfetamine dimesylate Vyvanse
methylphenidate Concerta [sustained-release, 12 hours], Daytrana [skin patch], Metadate CD [sustained-release, 8 hours], Metadate ER, Methylin, Methylin ER [extended release, 6 to 8 hours], Ritalin [short-acting, 4 hours], Ritalin-LA [extended release, 8 to 10 hours], Ritalin-SR [sustained release, 6 to 8 hours]
mixed salts amphetamine Adderall, Adderall XR [sustained release, 12 hours]

Medications such as Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Adderall can be highly effective in reducing symptoms and are usually where people start their treatment. However, medication does not teach the skills that many ADHD sufferers missed during their development. Cognitive therapy can fill this gap by teaching skills to help with time management, organization, distractibility, and impulsivity that may not be fully treated with medication. In addition, it is estimated that 50-75% of adults with ADHD suffer from another mental health condition such as mood, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders, which can also be treated in cognitive therapy in the same practical, skill-building manner as ADHD.