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Current Adult ADHD Medication

With so little research having been done into drug treatments for adults with ADHD, there are very few medications licensed specifically for it. Within the NHS, there are currently no drugs licensed specifically for the treatment of newly diagnosed adult ADHD.

A psychiatrist can, however, still prescribe ADHD medications, but will make it clear that the prescription is "off license".

Two types of drugs are routinely used for treating ADHD:


  • Methylphenidate – Ritalin, Concerta, Equasym
  • Dexamphetamine – Dexedrine
  • Adderall – mixture of dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine salts
  • Stimulants help the symptoms of ADHD in several ways. They increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, attention span and motivation. Stimulants help people with AHD concentrate and focus more and can also decrease irritability and hyperactivity.

People will react differently to the different types of stimulants and it is important to be closely monitored by your consultant psychiatrist to make sure you are taking the right drug for your condition.

Stimulants are legally ‘controlled’ drugs because they can be open to abuse and can be addictive.

Common side effects of stimulants used for treating ADHD:

  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Stomach problems such as nausea and diarrhoea
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Increased aggression and anxiety

Non-stimulant ADHD medication:

Atomoxetine (also known as Strattera) is a "selective noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitor" which increases the about of noreadrenaline in the brain. This helps increase the amount of messages passed in the brain which in turn increases concentration and helps control impulses.

These drugs are longer lasting, which means they only need to be taken once a day and can be useful for people who also suffer with depression as they have anti-depressive qualities. Strattera is generally used when stimulants have been ruled out or are not effective.

Common side effects of non-stimulant ADHD medications:

  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Stomach problems such as nausea and diarrhoea
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Increased aggression and anxiety

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