Stimulant Medications: Functions and Types
Children who have moderate to severe difficulties in controlling hyperactive behavior and focusing on tasks can benefit from the positive correlation between Attention Deficit Disorder or ADHD and stimulant medications. While some parents are concerned about the prospect of medicating a young child, the medications used for childhood ADHD are known to be quite effective in improving major symptoms of the disorder. Approved by the FDA for children as young as six years of age (and in the case of Adderall, three years of age), these ADHD medications stimulate neurotransmitters in the brain, resulting in the increased ability to control impulses, remain calm, and complete organized tasks without distraction.
Stimulant medication is normally recommended for ADHD children who have demonstrated behavioral difficulties in both the home and school environment. These medications can be composed of several types of chemicals such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate, and Daytrana), dexmethylphenidate HCl (Focalin), mixed salts amphetamine (Adderall), lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse), and dextroamphetamine sulfate (Dexedrine and Dextrostat). ADHD medications can either be administered to a child in a short-acting or extended release form. Short-acting pills are typically effective for a four-hour period and several doses are taken throughout the day. Extended release pills last between six and twelve hours and are ideal for school-age children as just one dose are taken in the morning.
Determining the Appropriate Stimulant for an ADHD Child
The medications used for childhood ADHD can produce side effects that vary significantly from person to person, and a trial and error process is sometimes necessary when determining which of the stimulant medications will work best. When prescribing a new medication for a child with ADHD, medical professionals initially offer a low dose that can be increased as needed in order to determine the appropriate level for optimal functioning. Initially, stimulant medications may cause temporary side effects such as headaches or stomach problems while the child’s body adjusts to the drug. Long-term side effects such as decreased appetite, mood swings, or sleep difficulties often indicate that a different form of stimulant medication should be considered.
Children with ADHD who respond well to stimulant medications are able to perform better academically, behaviorally, and socially. These medications can serve as a beneficial tool for balancing chemical levels in the brain. It is important for children to be consistent in taking their medication, though small breaks can sometimes be given on weekends or school holidays.
Researching Attention Deficit Disorder or ADHD and stimulant medications ensures that parents can make an informed decision about their children using this treatment method. Psychiatrists who specialize in childhood ADHD are a valuable resource for those who are interested in learning more about the overall effects of stimulants.