The difference between stimulant and non-stimulant drugs for ADHD – SheKnows


When it comes to treating ADHD, sometimes it’s best to take a multimodal approach, a combination of several tailored complementary approaches that work together to reduce symptoms. For many people, this ideal combination may include counseling, behavior therapy, parenting training, a healthy lifestyle, school accommodations, and medication. In terms of ADHD medications, there are two main types: non-stimulant / uncontrolled and stimulant / controlled. Although both treat the symptoms of ADHD, it can be difficult to determine which type of medication is best for your child. Dr Natalie Weder, senior child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute, tells She knows that choosing the right medication really depends on the patient. “You really have to look at the specifics of each patient to make that decision,” says Dr Weder.

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You need to do your research and see what makes each drug different from its counterpart and why. For starters, stimulants have been around longer, which means there is more research and more knowledge about this type of treatment.

However, non-stimulants have also been shown to be effective for children with ADHD.

Take a look at the guide below to learn more about each type of medication and make more informed decisions about which type is best for your child.

How they work

Most stimulants are thought to work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, pleasure, attention and movement. Some non-stimulants work by targeting the chemical norepinephrine in the brain, which can increase a person’s attention span and decrease their impulsive behavior.

The effectiveness will vary from child to child – there is no way to be sure that a specific treatment will work – but both types of drugs are commonly used to treat the three main symptoms of ADHD: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

How fast they start to work

Stimulants usually work quickly; a child could potentially feel the effects within 30 to 90 minutes after administration. Depending on the type of stimulant (extended-release, immediate-release or extended-release) and how a child responds to it, stimulants can leave the system in 3 to 12 hours. Non-stimulants vary in how quickly a patient can begin to notice symptom relief. For some patients, this may be in days or weeks rather than hours. Non-stimulants tend to stay in the system longer than stimulants. Non-stimulants can stay in the system for up to 24 hours.

Potential side effects

As with all medications, ADHD medications, both stimulant and non-stimulant, have potential side effects. Some common side effects of stimulants include difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, feeling restless and nervous, tics, headache, upset stomach, and rapid heartbeat. Some potential side effects of nonstimulants include drowsiness, decreased appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, sleeplessness, and irritability.

Use a multimodal approach

In addition to medication, some children with ADHD receive behavior therapy to help manage symptoms and provide additional coping skills, which Dr. Weder believes is something parents should definitely consider. She also believes that parents and teachers should have at least some knowledge of ADHD. “I think making sure teachers and parents understand the disease will help the child get the right support,” she says. “And because of the waves created in the development of treatments over the years, parents, teachers and physicians are able to have more resources available to them to better support children and adolescents with ADHD.”

The power of a good treatment plan

According to the CDC, studies show that the number of children diagnosed with ADHD continues to rise.

The good news is that the disorder is quite treatable, with research proving that a multimodal approach can be effective. According to CHADD, research from the National Institute of Mental Health’s landmark multimodal ADHD study found that children with ADHD who received carefully monitored medications in combination with behavioral treatment significantly improved their behavior. at home and at school.

These children also showed better relationships with their classmates and families than children who did not receive this combination of treatment.

This article was created by SheKnows for Supernus.

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