ADHD and medications


Attention Deficit Medications for Adults

Many women may be hesitant to take medications for their ADHD. As a woman myself, I know it's not easy to trust the medical profession. But it's important to know that medicine is one of the most effective ways to help yourself with the impact of ADHD. I'll explain a little on this page about what I know about ADD medications and give you some tools to help you communicate with your doctor and take control of monitoring and managing your medications if you choose to take them. Everything I have learned about ADHD medications I learned from Carolyn Lentzsch-Parcells, MD. I have been to workshops that she has conducted, the most recent at the 2020 International Conference on ADHD Strong Minds Healthy Lives. November 5-7.

Don't want to read this page? Here are the key points.

Stimulants are the best treatment for ADHD and ADHD people who have ADHD get BETTER when they are on stimulants for the most part.

If one doesn't work there are many different kinds! There are even sprinkles in case you can't swallow a pill.

Side effects with one kind doesn't mean you will have side effects with another.

If your doctor doesn't listen to you, and you don't feel safe get rid of him or her. Find a great one. Your doctor works for you.


Attention Deficit medication for adults: Important things for women to know


It's essential to know that your body is your own and your doctors work for you. Work with your therapist to not be intimidated by your doctor. If you feel disrespected or unheard, fire them and get a new one.

Side Effects

If your medicine causes you to feel less like yourself, less creative, or zombied in some way, hey that's not okay! No one should live their life like that. It should help you live a better quality of life where you are more in charge of your ADHD than it is of you. Don't settle for less.

Typical side effects from stimulants include:

  • weight loss
  • irritability
  • agitation
  • troubles with sleeping
  • trouble with mood
  • dry mouth
  • tics

Types of Medications


Stimulants are the first line of treatment; This means the best and usually first choice. They have been around since 1930! They have been well researched and are generally safe.

How do they work?

They increase the available dopamine and work on virtually every symptom of ADHD you could have, including:

  • inattention
  • motivation
  • impulsive behavior
  • emotional regulation


  • Stimulants work almost immediately.
  • One downside is you may have issues with affordability and accessibility with stimulants because they are regulated differently by the government.
  • Dosing is not weigh based or severity based.
  • Everyone responds differently based on a variety of personal issues.
  • Doctors will typically titrate up on stimulants while monitoring your side effects.

The two types of Stimulants. Methylphenadates and Amphetamines.


 Short-Acting Methylphenidates


There are different kinds of formulations of methylphenidates.  The formulations vary in how long the meds last and the time frames that they are released. They both block dopamine from being taken back up and being used, so the brain's lack of dopamine is corrected

Depending on this, the medications in this category can vary dramatically in how well they work and what kinds of side effects they have.

There are two different kinds of Methylphenidates. Short- acting and long- acting.

Short-acting methylphenidates begin to act in 30 minutes and last approximately 3- 5 hours. Because these drugs would usually need to be taken several times a day to manage your symptoms, they aren't usually prescribed for someone with ADHD. So why would they be prescribed, you might ask? Doctors will often prescribe these as  booster in the afternoon or if medication isn't  lasting all day for some reason. Some people have slow  metabolisms that wont tolerate longer acting medications. In this case  they might need short acting methylphenidates.

  • Focalin
  • Ritalin
  • Methylphenidate ( generic)

Extended Release Methylphenidates

Extended- release methylphenidates are the preferred first line of treatment for ADHD. There are many choices ! The pills vary in how much medicine is released and when. Usually, they begin to work within 20-60 minutes. The response to the drug will vary by person. What you have for breakfast and how much you have can also impact when this medicine will work. It will usually last 12 hours.  It is released in about 2-3 doses per day. The cost can be prohibitive without insurance.

  • Concerta
  • Ritalin SR
  • Aptensio
  • Cotempla xr
  • Daytrana
  • FOcalin XR
  • Metadate CD
  • Metadate ER
  • Quilichew ER/XR
  • Ritalin LA
  • Adhansia XR
  • Journey PM

Learn more about savings programs for medications here


Attention Deficit Medication for Adults: Amphetamines

Unlike methylamphetamines, amphetamines correct dopamine deficiency by increasing dopamine release from neurons.

The types of amphetamines each have different formulations. They vary by when the dosing is released and how long it lasts, and also when it is released.

Most of the side effects of amphetamines  are the same as stimulants, although weight loss is more of a challenge than with stimulants. There are also both short-acting and long-acting amphetamines.

The short-acting amphetamine is Adderall. It comes in a generic, is affordable, available in different formats and works quickly.   Like short-acting stimulants, it rarely used unless it complements another medication or is prescribed for someone with an atypical metabolism.

The most common long-acting amphetamines' are Adderall or Dexedrine and Vyvanse. The side effects are the same as with the other amphetamines. The person taking these drugs may have some emotional difficulty when they are wearing off.

Adderall and Dexedrine vary but how much medication is released and the drug formulation. Vyvanse has a different drug formulation.


Alpha 2 adrenergic Agonists


Guanfacine and Clonidine (also know as  Intuniv and Kapvay in generic form )

These two drugs are old blood pressure medicines. They help calm down the flight or fight response. Specifically, they seem to target hyperactivity, impulsivity, irritability, aggression, sleep, and emotional regulation.

Although they are not as good for focus and attention, they can be used as adjuncts to the stimulants.

These medications also help with sleep and tics. They take up to two weeks to work, and the longer-acting versions can last for 12 -24 hours.

Strattera and Atomoxetine Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI's)

These are longer-acting non-stimulants taken once a day. They are not as effective as stimulants and are sometimes given in addition to stimulants.

They can cause:

  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  •  worsening mod
  •  problems with sleep

Other drugs

Sometimes your doctor might prescribe Wellbutrin ( Buproprion) or other tricyclic antidepressants. They can help with the depression or anxiety that so often accompanies ADHD.

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Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.