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Ritalin for Adults with ADHD

written by: Genevieve Van Wyden • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 1/18/2011

Ritalin is one of the medications used for children with ADHD that seems to help adults with ADHD. As with children, the stimulant effects help the adults improve their ability to focus, concentrate, and resist distractions. For adults with ADHD, Ritalin may be one of a constellation of therapies.

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    Overview

    Adult ADHD causes many of the same symptoms as ADHD in children –– constant forgetfulness, impulsivity, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, poor organizational skills, low level of tolerance for frustration, employment or academic issues, depression, low self-esteem, difficulty managing anger, chronic boredom, mood swings, and relationship issues.

    While the adult with ADHD can self-identify symptoms, managing them is entirely another issue. The adult is able to identify, with help, areas of weakness, such as poor executive function and the ability to seek outside assistance. A medication (stimulant or non-stimulant) may help.

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    Cons of Ritalin for Adults with ADHD

    While Ritalin has been approved for use in childhood ADHD, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved use of this drug for use in adults with ADHD (Ritalin has been approved for use in adults with narcolepsy, states eMedTV). [1]

    This medication has not been sufficiently studied for use in adults with ADHD –– the risks and benefits of this medication for treatment of ADHD in adults has not been determined in any large-scale studies.

    The adult’s physician is allowed to prescribe Ritalin to treat symptoms of ADHD in an “off-label" use, meaning the FDA permits physicians to prescribe a medication to treat the ADHD in an age group for which the medication has not been explicitly approved. [1]

    In addition, in some cases of adult ADHD Ritalin can be taken for differing amounts of time, if the physician believes the medication may be beneficial to his patient.

    Because some adults with ADHD have additional health problems, such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure or heart disease, these adults and their doctors must use caution in choosing medications to treat the ADHD. A cautious physician will ensure that his adult patient with ADHD does not have any of these conditions before prescribing any stimulant medication, according to eMedTV. [1]

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    Pros of Using Ritalin for Adults with ADHD

    Along with other medications (Vyvanse, Dexedrin, Concerta, Focalin and Adderall), Ritalin can help the adult with ADHD manage physical symptoms. Two-thirds of adults diagnosed with ADHD who take stimulant medications respond well to treatment, according to WebMD. [2]

    When the adult with ADHD uses non-medication strategies along with Ritalin, the ability to focus attention, concentrate, and complete tasks improves greatly.

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    Why Should an Adult Take Ritalin?

    The physician of an adult with ADHD may decide to prescribe “off-label" use of Ritalin to help his patient achieve higher success in concentrating at work or in school; learn and put into practice new organizational skills; address relationship issues such as focusing on the spouse or significant other; focus in individual therapy sessions and job coaching sessions and in family therapy sessions, according to WebMD. [2]

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    What Symptoms Does Ritalin Address?

    Ritalin increases the availability of some neurotransmitters in the brain, helping to regulate behavior and attention, and control impulses, states Health.com. [3]

    Because the adult with ADHD lacks sufficient stimulation (too little serotonin in the brain), participation in risky or dangerous behaviors gives this stimulation. As Ritalin increases neurotransmitter availability in the brain, the adult with ADHD finds it less necessary to engage in dangerous behaviors. Ritalin also increases the ability to focus and concentrate, making it easier to get through the day at school or work, according to Health.com. [3] So if you or someone you care about suffers from ADHD, weigh all these considerations carefully before deciding if Ritalin is a good medication to help treat it.

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    References

    [1] http://adhd.emedtv.com/ritalin/ritalin-for-adults.html eMedTV: Ritalin for Adults

    [2] http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adhd-adults?page=2 WebMD: ADHD Guide: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: ADHD in Adults

    [3] http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20252269,00.html Health: Ritalin, Adderall, and Other Stimulant Medications for ADHD