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ADHD treatment options

ADHD cannot be cured, but it can be managed with 4 main approaches, or a combination of treatments:

  • Stimulant medicines
  • Non-stimulant medicines
  • Therapy
  • Complementary therapies

Each child's symptoms will be different, as will the most appropriate treatments recommended by ADHD specialists. If one medicine or approach doesn’t work, a different one may be tried.

Stimulant medicines for ADHD.

Stimulant medicines are the most commonly prescribed medications for children with ADHD. They include dexamfetamine and methylphenidate. These medicines are called psychostimulants or CNS stimulants.

Methylphenidate

Although methylphenidate can be a successful treatment for ADHD symptoms in children over 6 years old and teenagers, doctors do not fully know how it works. Methylphenidate is also sometimes referred to by the brand name Ritalin.

However, it is thought it helps by stimulating parts of the brain that responsible for changing mental and behavioural reactions.

Methylphenidate is given under close supervision from a GP and ADHD specialist. It may be given as several doses a day or by using slow release tablets.

One side effect is loss of appetite with a risk of weight loss. Doctors will monitor a child's weight and growth while taking methylphenidate.

Other side effects include increased blood pressure and heart rate, sleep problems, headaches, tummy aches and mood swings.

Dexamfetamine

Dexamfetamine works in a similar way to methylphenidate, with similar side-effects, and may be recommended for children over 3 years old and teenagers.

Extra caution will be taken if a child with epilepsy is prescribed dexamfetamine.

Non-stimulants medicine for ADHD

Atomoxetine is a non-stimulant medication for ADHD. This type of medicine is called a selective noradrenaline uptake inhibitor which helps to improve concentration and manage impulsive behaviour.

It may be recommended for children over 6 years old, teenagers and adults with ADHD.

This medicine carries warnings about an increased risk of a child thinking about suicide, so children will need to be monitored for signs of depression or suicidal thoughts.

Atomoxetine is not suitable for anyone with the eye condition glaucoma.

Side effects include a small risk of liver damage, increased blood pressure and heart rate, nausea, waking up early, dizziness, tummy aches and irritability.

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