|Concerta||methylphenidate (long acting)|
|Ritalin methylphenidate||methylphenidate (extended release)|
|Ritalin SR||methylphenidate (extended release)|
|Ritalin LA||methylphenidate (long acting)|
*Not all ADHD medications are approved for use in adults.
NOTE: "extended release" means the medication is released gradually so that a controlled amount enters the body over a period of time. "Long acting" means the medication stays in the body for a long time.
Over time, this list will grow, as researchers continue to develop new medications for ADHD.
What are the side effects of stimulant medications?
The most commonly reported side effects are decreased appetite, sleep problems, anxiety and irritability. Some children also report mild stomach aches or headaches. Most side effects are minor and disappear over time or if the dosage level is lowered.
• Decreased appetite. Be sure your child eats healthy meals. If this side effect does not go away, talk to your child's practitioner. Also talk to the practitioner if you have concerns about your child's growth or weight gain while he or she is taking this medication.
• Sleep problems. If a child cannot fall asleep, your practitioner may prescribe a lower dose of the medication or a shorter-acting form. The doctor might also suggest giving the medication earlier in the day, or stopping the afternoon or evening dose. A consistent sleep routine that includes relaxing elements like warm milk, soft music, or quiet activities in dim light, may also help.
• Less common side effects. A few children develop sudden, repetitive movements or sounds called tics. These tics may or may not be noticeable. Changing the medication dosage may make tics go away. Some children also may have a personality change, such as appearing "flat" or without emotion. Talk with your child's practitioner if you see any of these side effects.
Are stimulant medications safe?
Under medical supervision, stimulant medications are considered safe. Stimulants do not make children with ADHD feel high, although some kids report feeling slightly different or "funny." Although some parents worry that stimulant medications may lead to substance abuse or dependence, there is little evidence of this.
FDA warning on possible rare side effects
In 2007, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required that all makers of ADHD medications develop the US equivalent of Australia's Consumer Medicine Information leaflets that contain information about the risks associated with the medications. CMI leaflets must alert patients that the medications may lead to possible cardiovascular (heart and blood) or psychiatric problems. The agency undertook this precaution when a review of data found that ADHD patients with existing heart conditions had a slightly higher risk of strokes, heart attacks, and/or sudden death when taking the medications.
The review also found a slight increased risk, about 1 in 1,000, for medication-related psychiatric problems, such as hearing voices, having hallucinations, becoming suspicious for no reason, or becoming manic (an overly high mood), even in patients without a history of psychiatric problems. The FDA recommends that any treatment plan for ADHD include an initial health history, including family history, and examination for existing cardiovascular and psychiatric problems.
One ADHD medication, the non-stimulant atomoxetine (Strattera), carries another warning. Studies show that children and teenagers who take atomoxetine are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than children and teenagers with ADHD who do not take it. If your child is taking atomoxetine, watch his or her behavior carefully. A child may develop serious symptoms suddenly, so it is important to pay attention to your child's behavior every day. Ask other people who spend a lot of time with your child to tell you if they notice changes in your child's behavior. Call a doctor right away if your child shows any unusual behavior. While taking atomoxetine, your child should see a doctor often, especially at the beginning of treatment and be sure that your child keeps all appointments with his or her doctor.
Do medications cure ADHD?
Current medications do not cure ADHD. Rather, they control the symptoms for as long as they are taken. Medications can help a child pay attention and complete schoolwork. It is not clear, however, whether medications can help children learn or improve their academic skills. Adding behavioral therapy, counseling, and practical support can help children with ADHD and their families to better cope with everyday problems. Research has shown that medication works best when treatment is regularly monitored by the prescribing doctor and the dose is adjusted based on the child's needs.12