Common ADHD Medications




Meth vs Adderall lab

As a board-certified specialist in pediatric nutrition, I see children with ADHD frequently, mostly for just 2 reasons why these patients are referred to me. These children are either failure to thrive due to the anorexic side effects of ADHD medications OR newly diagnosed ADHD and parents wants to try the “natural way” or “diet” first.

Based on these, we know the side effects of ADHD medications are real and parents are aware. Besides, people also know that ADHD can be treated with changing diets.

It is true that ADHD medications can help reduce symptoms of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsivity in children and adults with ADHD. However, these medications come with side effects and risks—very bad side effects and very risky outcomes.

Remember, ADHD medications don’t cure ADHD. They are only for symptoms relief to make life easier for the adults (namely the parents and teachers). Don’t forget there are many other alternative options for ADHD treatment. ADHD medications are just “boo-boo bandaid” for the problem without treating the underlying causes.

Needless to say, ADHD medications do work well for some. And in some cases, it is necessary.

I once have this family who is adamant about not starting ADHD medication on their young. Like I said, in some cases, medication is probably a good idea, at least for the short-term while trying to fix the body.

This child is WILD…one parent had to literally hold her down with both arms to keep her to stay in the exam room. And when not paying attention, this child would just dash out of the door and down the hall. The parents had to literally chase her down to bring her back.
This is the situation where the child needs medication.

ADHD medications do not work for everyone. And not to mention the many unpleasant side effects, it’s important to know the facts about ADHD medications so you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your child and family.

And administration of ADHD medications should always be personalized and closely monitored by a trained psychiatrist (not psychologist or your pediatrician).



How Do ADHD Medications Work?

There are two classification of ADHD medications: stimulants and non-stimulants.

Stimulants are the most common type of medication prescribed for ADHD. They have the longest track record for treating ADHD and the most research to back up their effectiveness.

Stimulant ADHD medications include:
• Amphetamine (Adzenys XR ODT, Evekeo)
• Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine (Adderall and Adderall XR)
• Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, ProCentra, Zenzedi)
• Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin and Focalin XR)
• Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
• Methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate CD and Metadate ER, Methylin and Methylin ER, Ritalin, Ritalin SR, Ritalin LA, Quillivant XR)

For many people with ADHD, stimulant medications boost concentration and focus while reducing hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. Stimulants are believed to work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain by inhibiting its re-uptake mechanism. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, pleasure, attention, and movement. There is concern that the re-uptake inhibition may deplete neurotransmitters throughout the body and potential neurotoxicity of amphetamine.

Non-stimulant medications

In addition to the traditional stimulant drugs, there are several other non-stimulant medications used to treat ADHD. In cases where stimulants don’t work or cause unpleasant side effects, non-stimulants might be used. These include certain antidepressants and blood pressure medications, and are shown to improve concentration and impulse control.

Non-stimulant ADHD medications include:
• Amitriptyline (Elavil), desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane), imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor), or other tricyclic antidepressants
• Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
• Escitalopram (Lexapro) and sertraline (Zoloft)
• Venlafaxine (Effexor)

Atomoxetine (Strattera) was the first and only non-stimulant ADHD medications approved by the FDA. Unlike stimulants, which affect dopamine, Strattera boosts the levels of norepinephrine, a different brain chemical.

Warning, Strattera may cause an increase in suicidal thoughts and actions in some children and teenagers, especially if your child has bipolar disorder or depression in addition to ADHD.

This is a tough choice. Do I want a hyper child? Or do I want a suicidal child? Hmmm…

Guanfacine (Intuniv) is also approved for children and teens between ages 6 and 17.

Certain blood pressure medications, such as clonidine (Catapres) and guanfacine (Tenex), has also been approved for treating ADHD. While these medications can be effective for hyperactivity, impulsivity, and aggression, they are not as effective when it comes to attention problems. These medications can also cause daytime drowsiness. If this happens, reducing the dose or spacing it out over the course of the day may solve the problem. If not, ask your doctor about trying another non-stimulant medication.

For people suffering from both ADHD and depression, certain antidepressants, which target multiple neurotransmitters in the brain, may be prescribed. Wellbutrin, also known by the generic name bupropion, is most widely used. Wellbutrin targets both norepinephrine and dopamine.

Another option is the use of tricyclic antidepressants, such as Imipramine (Tofranil), desipramine (Norpramine), and nortriptyline (Pamelor). Unlike the stimulant medications, tricyclic medications must be tapered off slowly. Stopping abruptly can cause aches and other flu-like symptoms.

In some children, tricyclics can affect brain wave activity. If your child has a seizure disorder, a tricyclic might exacerbate the problem. Discuss this matter with your doctor before starting your child on a tricyclic.

Tricyclics have also been known to affect the electrical conduction pattern within the heart, triggering a rapid pulse. This is a rare side effect, and it generally stops once the medication is stopped.

We have not even dive into all the side effects of ADHD medications, and so far, there are some very scary ones. Knowing what you are dealing with helps to make better decisions for your child and family.

Don't rush into making a decision. ADHD symptoms can also be the results of other medical conditions or even malnutrition or nutrient deficiencies.

Related article: ADHD Symptoms or Something Else

Take your time to rule out other possibilities, weigh your options and get your child's input in the decision-making process.

A friend of mine recently was faced with the decision to start ADHD medication for her daughter. The psychiatrist explained to her daughter why she needs medication, and her daughter flat out told both my friend and the psychiatrist “no, i don’t need medication! I can focus on my own”. For sure, after that doctor’s visit, my friend’s daughter changed her behaviors and start showing more focus and completing tasks as expected.

Trust your instincts and do what feels right to you. Don't let anyone—be it your physician or the principal at your child's school—pressure your child into medication if you're not comfortable with it. Remember: medication isn't the only treatment option, and it’s not even a good option to start with.

ADHD medications should be the absolute last resort if nothing else works.

Read next: Common Side Effects of ADHD Medications




Sugar Coated

I just love the passion of these people making all these documentaries exposing the corrupted food system in this country.

Every time I watched one of these documentaries, I feel upset. I feel that I've been lied to during my training years as a student and intern.

Now that I don't have to be supervised by anyone. I told the patients what I believe, which is the truth.

Sugar is such an addicting ingredients that is in everything. It's amazing. Parents still believe that fat is bad.

NO!!! Sugar is worst.

I've been telling all my patients to avoid added sugar and simple carbohydrate all this time. It's like no one can give it up.

Watch the full documentary here and help spread the words.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk

by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

I got this books couple years back...but only recently I started reading it because my teenager has turned into a monster.

Every day is a fight of the will…whoever has the strongest will wins. I lost many battles already, such as bathing. But others I stand my ground, such as brushing and flossing, doing dishes and taking out trash.

It was constant nagging every night and asking her is like talking to a time bomb. You don’t know when she’ll flip…until I start using some of the strategies described in the book.

I also realized that as a parent, I’m treating my child differently than other people’s kids. I’m a pediatric dietitian, I work with kids everyday. I don’t yell at those kids when they come back with 5lbs weight gain in a month, or the skinny kids who keep losing weight.

I focus on what went well instead of what they didn’t do or achieve.

The book made me realized what I did wrong, and I have the skills to do it. It just that as parent you have different expectation from your child. You want to be sure you’re doing the right thing now, so you don’t screw up their lives later. So we became pushy and forget that we’re just their coach in their to coach them along making the best decision ON THEIR OWN.

Now I started focusing on all the little things that she did well. It’s pathetic, but I have say, every time I speak to her, I have to think how would I have said, if she’s one of my kiddo patients, and I rehearse in the head first. Let me tell you, it takes some adjusting. But the results is worth it.

May I say the last couple nights, she has been brushing and flossing her teeth, doing dishes, taking out trash, finishing homework by 10pm ALL ON HER OWN without me nagging.

Thank you GOD!!!

Parenting – the love/hate relationship

I was on wits end yesterday

Remember the book that I introduced last year, "A Disease Called Childhood"? The book basically talks about how our society is mistakenly labelling our totally fine and normal children with ADHD because of their behaviors are not what we expected.

Children who are just being their own active and curious self are being labelled with "ADHD".

If that's the case, then all teenagers would have been labelled "bipolar". One minute all sweet and cuddly, next minute full on tantrum and anti-social. But we did not, because we accept that "it's just a teenage phase", they'll grow out of it.

So why can't we also accept that children are meant to be active, curious and trouble-making are normal childhood behaviors.

My daughter is now 15 years old. I always joke about having a 5-year-old who has a vocabulary of a 15-year-old. She still throws tantrum, except now it's with words and attitude, no more screaming and crying spells.

Parenting is difficult. Whether or not your child has ADHD, you just have to accept he/she for who they are. Remember to set boundaries and rules. Children thrive on routine and predictability, which makes them feel secure.

My daughter will be graduating from high school in 2 years. And I've been contemplating the fact that she'll be leaving home to go to college. But when she has one of those teenage tantrum like yesterday, I am glad that it's only 2 years more to deal with her. Maybe this crazy teenage phase is supposed to help parents let go of their children.

Hahaha...just kidding...I'll miss her, and probably move close to where she goes to school.