What do ADHD Medications Do Anyway?

What do ADHD Medications Do Anyway?

What does ADHD medication do?

ADHD brain meds

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD medications are effective in treating the symptoms of ADHD in the majority of children as well as adults. Medical research shows that medication is the preferred treatment for ADHD. If you are like I was when they were prescribed at first, I blindly gave them to my daughter without really understanding what they were doing for her.  Fast forward to today and I am now an informed educator and coach and want to pass off some information to help you understand a little bit about the meds that are being recommended for you or your child and see what do they do and how they work.

The Impacted Areas

ADHD mainly affects the parts of the neurological system, which is the brain and nervous system, in terms of transmitting electrical signals or stimuli. The process of parts of the brain communicating with each other is known as neurotransmission.

It makes it difficult to concentrate and focus. Other major symptoms widely observed are inattentiveness, hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, anxiety, depression, tics, personality disorders, bipolar disorders, OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, restlessness, and short-tempered. These are commonly treated with medications such as stimulantsalong with behavior therapy.

How Do the Medications Target Impacted Areas

The medications widely being used for treating both children and adults suffering from symptoms of ADHD fall under the category of Stimulants. These stimulants function by boosting the levels of two main neurotransmitters in the brain, namely, Norepinephrineand Dopamine. The former is responsible for attention, attentiveness, concentration and focus whereas the latter controls attention and memory.

ADHD medication drugs increase or decrease the release of these chemicals in the brain to bring them to a normal state. When that happens, the synapse between neurons can hold an accurate amount of neurotransmitter for sending and receiving of neuro-signals. So, the metabolic activity increases in certain areas of the brain, aiding communication with elevated neurotransmitter levels and resulting in better functioning during cognitive tasks.

Different Doses, Varied Effects

When taken in small dosages, the body reacts to these stimulants in the same way that it does when the brain naturally produces dopamine and norepinephrine. The energy levels rise, alertness increases and so do concentration, attention, and focus. Different kinds of stimulants are available in the market. These are categorized based upon their ability to produce results within a certain frame of time. The categories are as follows:

  1. Short-acting stimulants
  2. Intermediate-acting stimulants
  3. Long-acting stimulants

The short-acting stimulants produce short term results. They have to be taken twice or three times a day. That implies that the patient has control over the intake of medication in his or her system. However, it is often noticed that patients tend to be forgetful about their medications and doses. It is no surprise that long-acting stimulants are widely preferred for patients suffering from ADHD with the reason being only a single tablet per day and the results lasting from 8 to 12 hours are more manageable.

However, higher dosages of the stimulants can affect adversely and result in impaired attention, obsessive-compulsive disorders, heart disorders.

It is noteworthy that the stimulants, non-stimulants, antidepressants, and behavior or other therapies do not cure ADHD. They result in an enhancement in the condition by increasing or decreasing the symptoms based on the need of the patient and help make it more manageable on a day to day basis. Proper and regular doses along with cognitive behavioral therapy and coaching have been reported to help with near to normal cognitive functioning.

This is just the surface level of information. Each person has a different way their body absorbs the medication and they effective can vary.  More medications are coming available to compensate for various patient needs.  The best point of contact to discuss these options is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of ADHD.  I believe more research is needed to better understand the effects in adults coupled with external structures to help cope with the challenges ADHD brings to your life. For now, it is a trial and error testing period to see what the right combination, dosage, and external structures help you manage your unique challenges.  But, keep looking and reading as knowledge is power and you can find ways that other people are managing their ADHD which can spur some ideas for yourself. As one doctor said in a podcast recently, ADHD is the best disorder that you can have as it is so treatable.

Michelle Raz specializes in helping people with executive function challenges associated with ADHD,  Stress, TBI’s and ASD find careers they will love and land them. Read more at www.razcoaching.com/about Or sign up for the weekly blog and learn about my new book Happiness+Passion+Purpose.

 

 

Are ADHD Meds Stimulants?

Are ADHD Meds Stimulants?

Are ADHD Meds Stimulants?

Yes and No. Not all ADHD medications are stimulants, but the vast majority of prescriptions are for stimulants.

So, let’s dig in a bit to understand them.

adhd meds

For most people dealing with ADHD, stimulant medications are effective and safe. Just the way reading glasses help our weak eyes focus better, stimulant medications help people dealing with ADHD focus their thoughts better. They help them in becoming more aware of their surroundings; they make them gain more control and pay attention to things around them. They are prescribed more often than non-stimulant medications

 

According to experts, stimulants are best when combined with another form of therapy such as behavioral therapy or coaching. According to researchers and studies conducted, around 80% of the children dealing with ADHD show great improvement when they are given stimulants in the correct dosage. I would predict that adults are similar, but there needs to be more research in this area.

In general, there are two types of stimulants that are used – the short-acting stimulants that are used as an immediate acting medication, and then there is extended-release that is used for long-acting. The first category of medication is usually taken when needed, like for an important event you might be planning when you really need to focus and be on point. Extended medications are taken once a day, usually in the mornings. Some common ones used are Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta. Clients that I have worked with say that, when they REMEMBER to take their meds, they can help manage the typical ADHD symptoms, such as impulsive behavior and short attention span allowing them to have a very productive day.

You may be wondering how they work. These medications boost the level of neurotransmitter brain chemicals such as norepinephrine and dopamine, which play a crucial part in one’s ability to be attentive and process information.

In simple words, they help the nerves found in our brain communicate with other nerves. As a result, you are able to focus better.

 

Just as eyeglass prescriptions are customized to a person’s unique vision problems, medication can be seen as the same. You want to get the correct type and dosage that is best suited for your conditions. Have you ever tried on someone else’s eyeglass prescription and it distorted everything in your view the wrong way? Well, think of having the wrong dosage of medication as a correlation. This is why it is always best to consult with a physician. You need to consider your own circumstances and health needs.

I must caution users to never try a medication from a friend or family member

Over the years, I have heard stories of parents that have used their kid’s prescription to see if it worked for them. This is not safe. Especially, for people with these complexities below, this group is cautioned to not take stimulants and a consult should be the first step.

–Severe anxiety, nervousness, tension or stress

  • Tourette syndrome, or if it is there in family history
  • Glaucoma
  • Taking medication known as monoamine oxidase
  • Psychotic or have a history of psychosis

 

When you meet with your physician they will discuss some options for you and the side effects that are possible with stimulants such as higher blood pressure, headaches, weight loss, loss of appetite, insomnia, social withdrawal and abnormalities in stomach. These generally go away after a few days, but if they don’t one must consult the doctor. Getting the medication right is an important piece of managing your ADHD. Do not ignore your symptoms and make sure to take note of how you are reacting to the medication plan.

Contrary to belief, sleep-related problems generally do not exist with a long-acting stimulant. I have heard of people who say that when they take their medications consistently it can actually help them have fewer thoughts as they go to bed and help them sleep better. I saw a comment once that said, “If I could actually count the sheep, I could get to sleep!” I think they were referring to the distracting thoughts that were happening while they were trying to focus on counting the sheep!

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind while taking these stimulants –

  • The medication must always be taken as prescribed. If there are any doubts or questions, one must call the doctor
  • One should try to stick to a schedule to ensure the medicine is given at the same time every day
  • If any dose is missed, the next dose should be given at the defined time
  • Record how your body is reacting to the meds over time and share it with your doctor

I was listening to a podcast recently on the usage of stimulants for treating ADHD and someone had raised a question if these stimulants get someone high or if they are addictive. To this question, the experts replied that when these drugs are taken as directed by the doctors, they do not get people high. They help make people with ADHD feel “normal” where they could hold their thoughts and carry on conversations without being distracted or impulsively blurting out their every thought. Essentially, it helped people with ADHD be more successful in their lives. They went on to state that stimulants used for ADHD have no pieces of evidence that consuming them is habit-forming and nor leads to drug abuse. The reaction in a person with ADHD using a stimulant is the opposite effect of someone without ADHD using the prescription. There is a much higher risk of them ending up in the hands of someone who does not need the medication nor has ADHD and them abusing it. This leads to another focus of safe storage and educating people to never share their medication as I mentioned earlier.

When used appropriately, stimulant medication has changed lives for the better.

So now that you have a little information about stimulants, you can start to look at the types of stimulants that are available to you. There is a lot to learn about medications with more options coming into the market. It can be overwhelming.   The best practice is to find a doctor who specializes in ADHD treatment plans and have a consult with them to determine what is the best plan for your unique situation. Be sure to ask what your options are for managing your ADHD given your health history and lifestyle. It makes a difference to the physician prescribing the medication to know which is best for you.

Just as you need to be informed about how the doctor may be able to help you, the doctor needs information about you to best help you.

Michelle Raz specializes in helping people with executive function challenges associated with ADHD,  Stress, TBI’s and ASD find careers they will love and land them. Read more at www.razcoaching.com/about Or sign up for the weekly blog and learn about my new book Happiness+Passion+Purpose.