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Insight into the Best Medication for Adult ADHD

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 1/4/2011

What is the best medication for adult ADHD? Here we will explore the four most commonly used medications and why they are beneficial.

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    Medications have been used for decades to treat adult ADHD symptoms. Stimulant medications are the most frequent choice, but there are a few non-stimulant drugs that are also effective.

    It is natural for adults with this disorder to wonder what the best medication for adult ADHD is. But before deciding on which ones to use, it is important to discuss what is on offer and which types of therapeutics are most suitable with your doctor. Different people will respond differently to ADHD medications.

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    Ritalin

    Ritalin is probably the most widely-known medication for ADHD. This drug works by stimulating dopamine, a chemical in the brain. When the serotonin and dopamine ratio is off-balance in the patient's brain, hyperactivity may develop. This medication helps to restore the ratio by amplifying the release of dopamine. Scientists believe that amplifying weak dopamine signals in adult ADHD patients leads to improved attention, enhances task-specific signaling, and decreases distractibility.

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    Adderall

    Adderall is a medication made up of four amphetamine salts. Once in the bloodstream, the drug will stimulate the brain's production of dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which are associated with behavior and attention. This medication also results in the brain absorbing dopamine and norepinephrine at a slower rate which helps to improve the patient's alertness and concentration.

    Typically an ADHD patient's sympathetic nervous system runs faster than the average person and they tend to have an increased heart rate and raised blood pressure. Adderall helps to slow down these symptoms.

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    Dexedrine

    Dexedrine is one of the best medications for adult ADHD. This medication works by increasing the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters that play a part in controlling attention and behavior. The drug can help to increase the patient's ability to focus for prolonged periods of time. However, the exact methods of action are not completely understood.

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    Strattera

    Strattera is actually a non-stimulant medication for adult ADHD. Most ADHD medications are stimulants so this is a solid alternative to those who do not tolerate them or who cannot take stimulants because of other medical conditions. This medication is thought to be a powerful inhibitor of the presynaptic norepinephrine transporter which results in more norepinephrine being available to help control impulsivity and hyperactivity and to increase attention. This drug intervention is still relatively new, but it is backed by several research studies showing that it is both effective and safe for adult ADHD.

    Two specific placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized clinical trials of Strattera for adult patients with ADHD have been performed to establish its effectiveness. These studies were carried out by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and lasted for 10 weeks. They were identical and both demonstrated that ADHD symptoms were significantly improved with this drug at 95 mg per day.

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    Resources

    HelpGuide.org. (2010). Adult ADD/ADHD. Retrieved on December 20, 2010 from HelpGuide.org: http://helpguide.org/mental/adhd_add_adult_symptoms.htm

    Watkins, C.E. MD. (2006). New Medications for Adults with AD/HD. Retrieved on December 20, 2010 from Northern County Psychiatric Associates: http://www.ncpamd.com/NewADD_Meds.htm

    MediLexicon International. (2010). Strattera. Retrieved on December 28, 2010 from MediLexicon International: http://www.medilexicon.com/drugs/strattera.php