Combating Side Effects Of Adhd Meds
ADHD meds can bring big improvements for your child, but they also can cause side effects. Read about 10 side effects and what you can do to minimize them.
Well-known stimulants such as methylphenidate and amphetamine/ dextroamphetamine are the most beneficial ADHD treatment drugs, so theres good reason doctors prescribe them. But these ADHD meds come with a caveat: side effects.
Stimulants work on the part of the brain that helps people pay attention, control impulses, control motor behavior, and stay organized. Studies have found these ADHD meds to be effective in up to 80 percent of people with ADHD.
Because these medications that help with ADHD symptoms act on the central nervous system, your child may also experience side effects such as anxiousness or problems sleeping when he starts ADHD treatment, says Carla Allan, PhD, co-director of the ADHD Specialty Clinic at Childrens Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo.
However, when the drugs are prescribed properly , side effects shouldnt be much of a problem, Allan says. And while you may notice some of these side effects during the first one to two weeks of taking the medication, they should go away after two weeks, she says. If they dont, your child may need a smaller dose.
10 Potential ADHD Treatment Side Effects
Here are 10 side effects associated with stimulant ADHD meds and what you can do about them:
Medication For Adhd: What You Need To Know
Medication can help reduce symptoms of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsivity in children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder , formerly known as ADD. However, medications come with side effects and risksand theyre not the only treatment option. Whether youre the parent or the patient, its important to learn the facts about ADHD medication so you can make an informed decision about whats best for you or your child.
The first thing to understand is exactly what medications for ADHD can and cant do. ADHD medication may help improve the ability to concentrate, control impulses, plan ahead, and follow through with tasks. However, it isnt a magic pill that will fix all of your or your childs problems. Even when the medication is working, a child with ADHD might still struggle with forgetfulness, emotional problems, and social awkwardness, or an adult with disorganization, distractibility, and relationship difficulties. Thats why its so important to also make lifestyle changes that include regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep.
What Kind Of Side Effects Does Medication For Adhd Have
We at BetterHelp have combined a shortlist of some ADHD medications. Many of them can treat any age, whether you are a child, teenager, or adult. While this list is not exhaustive, we have compiled this list of some of the more common ADHD medications and their most common known side effects:
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What Is An Adhd Medication Vacation
Some people stop taking their ADHD medication for a while, especially stimulant medications. This is called a medication vacation. For example, parents might decide to stop giving ADHD medication to their child over summer break.
People do this for different reasons. Maybe a child isnt gaining enough weight. Or sometimes parents dont think it is necessary during the summer, when a child doesnt need to focus as they would in school. Sometimes you just might want to see how a person responds to being off their medication.
Medication vacations can be helpful for some people. However, its best to plan them with your healthcare provider. Your doctor might suggest a lowered dosage or switching to a different ADHD medication instead.
Common Adhd Medication Side Effects
Although many people use ADHD medication to treat their symptoms, there’s always the risk of adverse side effects. Everyone responds to medication differently. Therefore, finding what works best for you could potentially take some time. Be sure to bring up your concerns about side effects with your physician before exploring treatment options.
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What Are The Visual Side Effects Of Adhd Medication
A child who has been prescribed a medication for ADHD may experience an increase in their visual problems- leading to increased difficulty to maintain attention in class, as well as other challenges that may imitate ADHD behavior.
- Reduced focusing power
Work With Your Child’s Doctor
If these strategies do not alleviate side effects, be sure to consult with your childs doctor. Additional side effects you should discuss with them include:
- Increased anxiety
There are also potential risks from ADHD medication that are important to discuss with your child’s doctor. For example, non-stimulants Strattera and Qelbree contain warnings about suicidal thoughts, and Qelbree also warns of suicidal behaviors, so it’s important to monitor for any changes in your child’s mood and behavior.
Be sure to discuss potential serious side effects and your child’s medical history with your doctor to find a medication that’s safe for them, and so you know what to look out for should anything arise.
If your child is having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
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What Are The Side Effects Of Adhd Non
If stimulants cannot be used because their side effects prove uncontrollable, consider using one of the non-stimulant medications. Some patients experience side effects on both stimulants and non-stimulants. In this case, combining much smaller doses of a stimulant and a non-stimulant might be the solution.
How To Help With Adhd Medication Side Effects
Its important to report side effects to the person who prescribed the medication. The prescriber may want to make changes to your childs medication, dose, or timing. There are also things you can try at home to reduce side effects.
Sleep problems: Sometimes, stimulant medication makes it hard for kids to fall asleep. This problem usually gets better over time it could take four to six weeks. ADHD itself can make it hard for kids to wind down and fall asleep at night, too. Because of that, you may also want to tweak your childs bedtime routine. Get tips on how to help kids with ADHD wind down at night.
Eating issues: Stimulant medications can cause eating problems when the medicine is active in a childs system. Extended-release versions of stimulant medications peak about four hours after theyre taken. So if kids take the medication right after breakfast, they may not be hungry at lunchtime. Thats why its important to make sure kids eat breakfast first, and to encourage them to eat whenever they feel hungry.
Their appetite will likely return later in the day as the medication wears off. So in the evenings they may be extra hungry. Keeping healthy snacks around can help kids get enough nutrition throughout the day.
Nausea and headaches: These side effects tend to go away within a few weeks of starting medication. You may be able to minimize them in the meantime by having your child take the medication with food.
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You Are Willing To Try Different Types Of Medications
ADD medications for adults are not a magic bullet and while some work wonders for specific individuals, others may find no benefits at all or will find the side effects to be too much to take.
It may take some time and patience to figure out which drug is right for your condition and you may experience some negative side effects along the way.
Adding therapy to an ADHD treatment plan may help patients and families better cope with daily challenges- Click below to get help.
What Other Nonstimulant Therapies Are Used To Treat Adhd
Two drugs, Kapvay® and Intuniv® , have been approved by the FDA for use alone or with stimulant drugs for the treatment of ADHD. These drugs can improve mental functioning as well as behavior in people with ADHD. However, they are usually reserved for those who respond poorly to and cannot tolerate stimulants or Strattera.
Clonidine is also available as a short-acting tablet and as a transdermal patch. Guanfacine is also available as a short-acting tablet. These dosage forms have also been used to treat ADHD, however they are not specifically approved by the FDA for this indication.
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Adhd Medications For Adults With Anxiety
Adult patients with an anxiety disorder, as well as ADHD, should be first treated for the primary condition. ADHD symptoms should be treated if they still persist after the resolution of anxiety symptoms. However, it is important to first investigate whether the anxiety symptoms are a result of ADHD. In this case, effective treatment of ADHD would most likely resolve the anxiety as well. However, there is conflicting data on whether stimulant medications can improve anxiety symptoms.
- A study of 42 patients with ADHD and comorbid anxiety found that treatment with methylphenidate had a beneficial effect on anxiety symptoms.
- However other studies have shown that stimulants have no effect on anxiety.
When To Talk With Your Doctor About Adhd Medication Side Effects
Let your doctor know about any side effects you might have from the ADHD medication. You might have to try different kinds of medication before you find the best one for you.
If side effects dont go away after theyre expected to, let your doctor know. If you start to notice any side effects that start after being on the medication for a period of time, call your doctor.
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Is Antidepressant Therapy Used To Treat Adhd
Several types of antidepressant drugs can be used to treat ADHD. Antidepressant therapy for ADHD is sometimes used as the treatment of choice for children or adults who have ADHD and depression.
Antidepressants, however, are generally not as effective as stimulants or Strattera at improving attention span and concentration.
Antidepressants used for treating ADHD include the following:
Note: The FDA has determined that antidepressant medications increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders. If you have questions or concerns, please discuss them with your healthcare provider.
Side Effect: Loss Of Appetite
Along with difficulty falling asleep at night , loss of appetite is the most common side effect of stimulant meds. This problem often clears up on its own within a few weeks, so I usually recommend a wait-and-see approach. If the problem persists, dont delay taking action especially if the appetite loss is severe enough to trigger decrease in total body mass, or, in a growing child, failure to grow appropriately.
First, observe your childs eating patterns. Breakfast often goes well because the first dose of the day hasnt yet kicked in. Lunch is likely to be a lost cause, nutrition-wise. Ditto for dinner. Your child probably becomes very hungry around 8:00 p.m., when the evening dose wears off.
There may be little you can do to boost your childs appetite in the middle of the day . So instead of worrying about what gets eaten at lunch, create nutritional windows of opportunity at other times of the day.
For example, get a good, healthful breakfast into your child before the first dose of the day kicks in. Hold off on the 4:00 p.m. dose until 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. Your childs appetite may return in time for dinner. Then give the third dose.
Does your child eat lots of sweets? If so, getting him to cut back should boost his appetite for more nutritious fare.
If switching stimulants doesnt help, ask your doctor about moving on to a non-stimulant.
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Are There Any Tips And Precautions Related To Antidepressants For Adhd
When taking antidepressants for ADHD, be sure to tell your healthcare provider:
- If you are nursing, pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
- If you are taking or plan to take any prescription drugs, dietary supplements, herbal medicines or nonprescription medications.
- If you have any past or present medical problems, including high blood pressure, seizures, heart disease and urinary problems.
- If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse or dependency or if you have had mental health problems, including depression, manic depression or psychosis.
- If you develop any depressive symptoms or feelings that you might harm yourself.
- If you develop irregular heartbeats or fainting spells.
The following are useful guidelines to keep in mind when taking antidepressants or giving them to your child for ADHD:
What Are The Drug Interactions Of Adhd Drugs
Absorption and excretion of amphetamines — and therefore blood levels — are affected by pH. Fruit juices, vitamin C, and some drugs acidify the stomach, decreasing absorption. Alkalinizing agents, such as antacids, increase amphetamine absorption.
- Amphetamines should not be used along with tricyclic antidepressants or decongestants.
A 14-day clearing period is required between the use of a Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor and amphetamine. Otherwise, severe hypertension may occur.
Methylphenidate should not be used within 14 days of using an MAOI. Otherwise, a hypertensive crisis might occur. Because it raises blood pressure and heart rate, methylphenidate should be used with caution with other drugs that can affect blood pressure and heart rate. Dosage adjustment may be necessary for:
Atomoxetine should not be used within 14 days of an MAOI, otherwise severe, possibly fatal reactions could occur. Increases in heart rate and blood pressure may occur if atomoxetine is administered with other medications that can increase heart rate or blood pressure.
The sedative effect of alcohol, barbiturates, or other drugs may be increased by guanfacine.
Bupropion should not be used within 14 days of an MAOI. Medications that can interact with bupropion include:
- Tricyclic and SSRI antidepressants
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A Closer Look At Adhd Drugs
- Stimulant medications, such as dextroamphetamine-based drugs and methylphenidate-based drugs . They are also available as generics.
- Nonstimulant medication, such as the antidepressant bupropion or atomoxetine , which is not available as a generic.
Those medicines don’t cure ADHD but they can keep symptoms under control, which may improve a person’s daily functioning. Each raises different safety issues, however, which your doctor should discuss with you. Dosing convenience and how long the medicine is active are critical elements of ADHD treatment. You should be skeptical if a doctor or therapist diagnoses ADHD at the first visit and immediately prescribes a drug and should seek a second opinion.The stimulants are controlled substances, while Straterra is not. Fewer restrictions apply to prescriptions for Straterra, and some parents think that makes it safer. If families are worried about using a controlled substance for children, Straterra might be more acceptable, Goldstein says, although many professionals think it might be less effective.
What Are The Side Effects Of These Drugs
The most common side effects include:
- Stomach pain.
These drugs can rarely cause irregular heartbeats. They can lower blood pressure and slow heart rate.
Careful screening for heart rhythm irregularities and regular monitoring of blood pressure and EKGs is recommended.
Both drugs can cause significant drowsiness use caution when operating dangerous equipment or driving until you know how these drugs affect you.
This is not a complete list of side effects. If you experience a potential side effect while taking these drugs, please consult a healthcare professional.
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Are Stimulants Addictive
Many people worry that stimulants might have an addictive effect. However, when taken as prescribed, the risk of that is low.
These drugs are very similar to illegal street drugs, like methamphetamine, that people use to get high. However, those drugs are taken at much higher amounts than those prescribed by a clinician.
Some people do abuse medications used for ADHD, taking more than prescribed or tampering with the pills to get high. But people who take these drugs the right way dont have these issues.
How To Weigh The Risks
Work with your doctor. Together you can decide if ADHD meds are safe for you.
Your doctor may want to run a few tests to see if you have conditions that might not mix well with ADHD drugs. For instance, they can check to see if you have high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, or other kinds of heart disease.
Other conditions might bump up your risks from ADHD drugs. Tell your doctor if you have one of these:
- Allergy or sensitivity to stimulants
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What Else Can I Do
You and your parents should watch for any if you take a new ADHD medicine. Your doctor will adjust the dose and how often you take the medicine based on how much the medicine helps and if you have side effects.
You may need to go for several visits with the doctor over weeks or months to find the right medicine and dose. After that, the care team will want to see you every 3 to 6 months.
Going to all of the follow-up visits is important so the care team can check your height, weight, and blood pressure. The care team will also monitor side effects and adjust the medicine dose, as needed.
To prevent problems, always do these things when taking ADHD medicine:
- Take the recommended dose.
- Take each medicine at the right time.
- Talk to a doctor before stopping the medicine or changing the dose.
- Keep all medicines in a safe place where others can’t get to them.
- Don’t give any of your medicine to anyone else.
Medicine is one part of treatment for ADHD. Treatment also can include therapy, parent support, and school support. Medicine works best when parents, teachers, and therapists help you learn any social, emotional, and behavioral skills that aren’t easy because of ADHD.