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Medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Medication is an important component of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) treatment. It can provide relief from problematic symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating, the inability to complete tasks, or restlessness. Medication can also reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and improve the ability to focus, work, and learn.

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When medication is recommended to treat ADHD in adulthood, NYU Langone psychiatrists provide follow-up medication management sessions to fine-tune the choice of medication and the dosage. They may also use medication to manage the symptoms of other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, that often occur in people with ADHD.

Stimulants are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD, because they have a calming effect on people with this condition. These medications include amphetamine salts, such as Adderall®; methylphenidate, such as Concerta® or Ritalin®; and lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, or Vyvanse®. Many types of stimulant medications are available in short-acting or extended release varieties. Extended release medications are typically preferred, because they are formulated to release the medication slowly into the body, allowing symptoms to be controlled throughout the day.

Nonstimulant medications are sometimes prescribed as an alternative to stimulant medications. They affect the brain differently but also offer relief of symptoms. Strattera®, or atomoxetine, is a nonstimulant medication used to treat ADHD in adults.

When you begin a course of medication, our psychiatrists meet with you on a regular basis to tailor the dosage in order to minimize side effects. Stimulants may cause insomnia, appetite loss, and quickened heartbeat, whereas nonstimulant medication may cause dizziness, trouble sleeping, dry mouth, and decreased appetite. Our psychiatrists also address any questions you may have about the medication.

Our doctors typically recommend that you take medication for at least one year. During follow-up visits, which occur on a monthly basis at first and every few months thereafter, your doctor assesses how well the medication is working for you and develops a longer-term management plan. Some people may be able to taper down their medication until they no longer need it, whereas others may use medication for a longer amount of time if their symptoms persist. Medication is sometimes used in conjunction with cognitive therapy.

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