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ADHD drugs: How effective are the stimulant medications?

ADHD drugs and the stimulants:

ritalinSince they were first accidentally discovered (1937), the most successful development of ADHD drugs has included the stimulants. Since then, they have received an enormous amount of research - far more than any other known treatment for childhood psychiatric disorders. The research results have overwhelmingly found that these ADHD drugs are quite effective for the management of ADHD symptoms in most children over the age of five years old. These medications have not been found to be quite as effective for children between the ages of four and five years of age, and are not recommended for children under the age of three years old. The effectiveness of the stimulant ADHD drugs has led to their widespread use among children with this condition. It is now estimated that approximately 2.8% of school-aged children are being treated with stimulants for their ADHD symptoms. More recent research continues to find that these medications may be just as effective for adults and adolescents as they are with children. The future will probably see increased use of these ADHD drugs with the older age groups.

 

ADHD Drugs: The most common ones

The most commonly prescribed ADHD drugs are methylphenidate (Ritalin), d-amphetamine (Dexadrine), and pemoline (Cylert). Adderal has also been approved for the management of ADHD symptoms. It is a combination of amphetamines, that is reported by the manufacture to be significantly effective in the treatment of ADHD symptoms. Because of its similarity between the previously studied compounds of d-amphetamine and l-amphetamine, there is no reason to believe that it will not prove to be just as effective as these other ADHD drugs.

As of this report, methylphenidate (Ritalin) and d- amphetamine (Cylert) were the most commonly prescribed ADHD drugs. They act relatively quickly producing effects on children within 30 to 45 minutes after they are taken orally in their standard preparations, with the effects peaking within two to four hours. However, their ability to manage behavior quickly dissipates within three to seven hours, although small amounts of the medication may remain in their blood system for up to 24 hours. Because of the medicationís short half-life (time that it remains in the blood system), it is frequently prescribed in twice or three times daily doses. Although they were once predominantly used for school days, there has been a recent trend toward using these ADHD drugs also during school vacations, especially if the children have severe ADHD or conduct disorder problems. This is probably due to the fact that the use of these medications is now believed to not seriously affect a child's growth as they were previously believed, resulting in the recognition that the need for medication holidays is probably no longer justified. Both Ritalin and Dexadrine come in slow release preparations that may reduce the number of daily doses children require to manage their ADHD symptoms. Pemoline, in its slow release form, has also found some modest popularity among ADHD children. However, recent reports of liver functioning problems in children, and occasionally death due to such dysfunctioning, have led the manufacture to issue a warning to physicians that this ADHD drug (Pemoline) should no longer be considered a first-line agent in the management of ADHD symptoms.

Information from Treatment of Childhood Disorders by Eric J. Marsh and Russell A. Barkley

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic  MA Licensed Psychologist   Ph.D. Candidate  (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

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