Adult ADHD prevalence rates in the US is estimated to be around 4.4% of the total population. Among children the rates are higher at around 9.4%, accounting for more than six million children. The chronic condition is known to cause various difficulties among the afflicted, including challenges in attention, hyperactivity and an impulsive behavior. Medications presently prescribed for treating the condition are of five different types. Subsequent sections list out and explain possible adhd medication side effects to help patients and caregivers prevent effects from turning serious or adverse in nature.


Typical problems faced by patients as a result of ADHD


The condition is generally known to start during childhood, and progresses into adulthood for some. In a large number of patients the condition is likely to remain undiagnosed in childhood, and may only be identified during adulthood. Throughout childhood, the symptoms or changes in behavior may often be misconstrued as other conditions or behavior. Various problems as a result of the condition include low self-esteem, difficulty in relationships and a host of challenges at school or at the workplace. Individuals afflicted with the condition are known to suffer from lower attention levels while being hyperactive.


The options for treatment include medication, therapy that includes talk therapy, social behavior/conditioning and psychological counseling (psychotherapy). The treatment for adults and children diagnosed with the condition are the same and do not differ. Treatment may also be necessary for other conditions that may be witnessed in patients along with ADHD. One of the differences in the condition is the reduction in hyperactivity among adults, while other challenges and problems remain, requiring medication.


Commonly observed symptoms of the condition 


Symptoms are known to reduce with age, but certain individuals are known to experience no changes in symptoms. The nature of the symptoms are also known to differ from person to person and could be mild or severe in nature. As outlined earlier, many individuals may remain unaware of the condition, only facing difficulties in certain actions. For instance, the ability to focus and attach importance or priority to tasks may be affected, and this may result in social embarrassment or difficulties in the workplace. Similarly, there could be behavioral issues as a result of the condition – for instance, impatience and changes in mood may have a serious impact on the individual while driving or while at long lines making a purchase.


Symptoms that are commonly associated with the condition include impulsive behavior, inability to remain organized, inability to prioritize actions, ineffective time management, challenges in remaining focused on a task, inability to multitask, hyperactive or a state of restlessness, lack of planning, lesser tolerance, tendency to get easily frustrated, sudden changes in mood, bad temper, inability to put with stressful conditions, and challenges in following up or closing tasks.


Reasons for the disorder


The actual reasons that are responsible for the condition are not fully confirmed, though research is ongoing. Experts have broadly linked the condition to genetical make up, environmental conditions, and developmental issues for the condition. To put it differently, the chances of an individual having ADHD are higher among individuals in families where others have ADHD. Exposure to certain substances during childhood is also likely to have an impact and cause ADHD. This includes exposure to lead during childhood. Children during various stages of development who experience problems in the central nervous system are likely to have ADHD.


High risk categories of individuals


Certain categories of individuals are likely to be exposed to higher risk of the condition. For instance, children of mothers who either smoked or indulged in heavy drinking or addicted to intoxicating substances, are at higher risk of ending up with the condition. Children born prematurely are also at risk of having ADHD. In addition to these, the other risk factors are as listed in previous section – genetics and environmental exposure.


Conditions that are typically linked to ADHD


There is the possibility of certain conditions being experienced by individuals in addition to the disorder. While ADHD does not actually result or trigger psychological or developmental issues, there is the possibility of other conditions, and this may make treatment regimens more complex. For instance, patients with the disorder are likely to have depression, or any other mood disorder or bipolar disorder. Though this is not directly linked to ADHD, the c-existing condition may aggravate depression as a result of certain challenges associated with ADHD.


The probability of anxiety disorders occurring alongside ADHD is high, and this is again attributed to the challenges and difficulties linked to the condition. Patients are also likely to end up with psychiatric disorders, that include personality disorders, possible substance abuse inclination and intermittent explosive disorder. A common condition that is linked to ADHD is learning disabilities. Patients are more likely to under-perform in academics, when compared with others of similar age group, intelligence and with same educational qualifications or experience.


Commonly available medications and ADHD medication side effects


As mentioned above, there are presently five different types of medications used for treating the condition. This includes methylphenidate, lisdexamfetamine, dexamfetamine, atomoxetine and

guanfacine. None of these medications are intended as a permanent cure for the condition, but are intended to help patients cope with the condition better and improve certain abilities. This is also intended to help individuals tone down impulsive behavior, be calm, pick up skills and adapt better.

The medications are recommended to be taken daily, and often include breaks in the treatment, for the purpose of assessing the condition, and the outcome of the medications. These breaks in medication also help in assessing if the medication is required to be continued. The dosages are typically lower initially and gradually increased to help individuals cope with the probable effects that may be experienced initially.

Overview of each formulation

Here is a quick overview of each medication and possible ADHD medication side effects.

#1 Methylphenidate

One of the most commonly recommended medications, this is a stimulant. The mechanism of action results in an increase in brain activity in the areas responsible for controlling attention and behaviour in individuals. The medicine can be safely taken by patients above the age of 5, and is available as an immediate-release small dose. This makes it necessary to take it twice or thrice a day.  It is also available as a modified-release dosage, wherein it is taken once daily in the morning.  Side effects linked to this medicine include possible increase in blood pressure, changes in heart rate, and possible reduction in appetite. Additionally, the patient is likely to have difficulty sleeping, or may have headaches, pain in the stomach, be aggressive in conduct or irritable in nature.

#2 Lisdexamfetamine

This is another medication that belongs to the category of stimulants. The mechanism of action and outcomes include improvement in concentration, attention apart from a reduction in impulsiveness. This medication is also safe to be given to patients above the age of 5, and is generally considered as an option when methylphenidate medications have not delivered the desired results in children. For adults, the medication can be the first line of treatment. Available as a capsule, it is taken once daily, and comes with its share of undesirable outcomes. This includes a sudden loss of appetite, possible aggressive behavior, and feelings of drowsiness. Additionally, the patient may also experience possible diarrhea, vomiting and headaches.

#3 Dexamfetamine

This is another medication that has a similar mechanism of action to lisdexamfetamine and is safe to be used by patients above 5 years. This is usually taken twice or four times daily. Like other medications, this drug also comes with the possibility of side effects including reduction in appetite, sudden changes in mood, aggressive behavior, and feelings of drowsiness. The patient is also likely to experience headaches, diarrhea and may be agitated at times.

#4 Atomoxetine

This is a class of medication that works in a manner that is distinct from other ADHD drugs. Belonging to the category of selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), it brings about an increase in noradrenaline levels in the brain. The chemical in the brain is responsible for signaling messages among brain cells, and the increase helps in enhancing concentration/focus, apart from regulating impulsive behavior. It is safe for use by patients above the age of 5 years, and is taken either once or twice every day. Undesirable effects linked to the medication include increased blood pressure levels or spike in heart rate, possible vomiting sensations, and pain in the stomach. The patient may also experience difficulty in falling asleep or remaining asleep, apart from a tendency to get easily irritated. This medication comes with the possibility of certain adverse outcomes such as damage to the liver or suicidal thoughts.

#5 Guanfacine

This medication is known to have a mechanism of action that results in improved brain function, apart from reduction in blood pressure levels.  This is intended only for children and is recommended for adults. Children above the age of 5 are recommended the medication, that is taken once daily, either in the mornings or in the evenings.  The commonly linked side effects of the medication include abnormal tiredness, throbbing headache, and pain in the stomach. Patients may also experience a dry mouth when on the medication.

The need for a holistic approach

The condition requires a holistic approach, that includes therapy, such as Psychoeducation and Behaviour therapy. This is necessary to help children and adults cope with the effects of the condition better and to integrate themselves in society, in families and at the workplace in a better way. The condition throws up multiple challenges, which require a combined approach involving medication, therapy and counselling.


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