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What Are the Most Effective ADHD Medications for Adults?

Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence-based reports on its efficacy, mental health medications still often receive a bad reputation. This includes ADHD medications. Now, there are a few potential reasons for this. First, due to the current opioid crisis, people are unjustifiably linking all prescription medications together and deeming them dangerous. Second, there is still, unfortunately, a stigma surrounding the nature of mental illness as a chronic disease. Moreover, chronic diseases require a recovery program that includes a continuum of care.

Understanding Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Perhaps the best way to understand adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is to understand its symptoms. The symptoms of untreated ADHD in adults fall under two categories. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), these include hyperactivity or impulsivity, and inattention. The following are just a few of the symptoms that fall under these categories:

Symptoms of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

The following are just a few examples of hyperactivity and impulsivity:

  • Extreme restlessness and difficulty standing still for long periods of time
  • Continuous fidgeting 
  • Excessive talking
  • Interrupting people while they are talking and answering questions before they are done being asked

Symptoms of Inattention

The following are some, but certainly not all, of ADHD symptoms of inattention:

  • Consistently losing everyday items, such as car keys and cellphones
  • Not being able to concentrate for extended periods of time
  • Having trouble focusing on what others are saying
  • An inability to organize tasks
  • Consistently forgetting one’s schedule, both in the short and long term
  • Becoming easily distracted by racing thoughts

Now, NIMH also specifies some distinctions that are necessary for adult ADHD to be diagnosed. These specifications are “[experiencing] at least five persistent symptoms of inattention and/or five persistent symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity. These symptoms must be present in two or more settings (for example, home, work, or school; with friends or relatives; in other activities) and interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.” When these symptoms become diagnosed, medication may be recommended as a treatment option.

Utilizing ADHD Medications

What Are the Most Effective ADHD Medications for Adults?

There are generally two primary tools that mental health care professionals use to treat adult ADHDTherapy and medication. In most instances, professionals recommend using both, especially at the beginning of a treatment plan.

The medications for adult ADHD primarily fall under the category of stimulants. Now, this goes back to the stigma of prescription medication. Moreover, yes, some people indeed abuse ADHD medications; the most well-known one probably being Adderall.

However, the truth about ADHD medications is that the individuals who could benefit from them generally do not experience the euphoric effects that those who do not need them are seeking. ADHD medications will simply work to balance brain chemistry in those struggling with adult ADHD so they can then better focus and calm their behaviors.

Some Effective ADHD Medications

As previously mentioned, the most well-known medication for treating adult ADHD is Adderall. There is a good reason for this. In addition to its reported effectiveness, Adderall has been shown to mitigate the symptoms of adult ADHD by increasing norepinephrine and dopamine levels in the brain. This effectively treats both hyperactivity and inattention. Another well-known medication in this category is Ritalin. Ritalin works similarly to Adderall, but it is generally more effective in treating adolescents.

Other ADHD medications include antidepressants. These are used for treatment because anxiety and depression are often co-occurring symptoms of adult ADHD. They also sometimes rise to the level of co-occurring disorders. While not fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), antidepressants have been shown to work as effective supplemental medications in an ADHD recovery plan.

Utilizing ADHD Medications Within a Comprehensive Recovery Plan

As previously mentioned, therapy is also often used to treat adult ADHD, and it is not the only other modality that is used. There are also experiential and holistic options that can be effective additions to a comprehensive recovery plan.

One of the keys to recovery is not being so rigid when it comes to trying different modalities. It is important to try different things to see what is effective and what isn’t. Now, of course, this must always be done under the supervision of a mental health care professional. Ultimately, one should never be afraid of trying new treatment methods because you never know what may be the most effective on an individualized basis.