Stimulants such as methylphenidate
and amphetamines are the most common type of medication used for treating adhd
. Although it may seem counterintuitive to treat hyperactivity
with a stimulant, these medications actually activate brain circuits that support attention and focused behavior, thus reducing hyperactivity. In addition, a few non-stimulant medications, such as atomoxetine
, guanfacine, and clonidine
, are also available. For many children, adhd medications reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and improve their ability to focus, work, and learn. Medications also may improve physical coordination. However, a one-size-fits-all approach does not apply for all children with adhd. What works for one child might not work for another. One child might have side effects with a certain medication, while another child may not. Sometimes several different medications or dosages must be tried before finding one that works for a particular child. Any child taking medications must be monitored closely and carefully by caregivers and doctors. Stimulant medications come in different forms, such as a pill, capsule, liquid, or skin patch. Some medications also come in short-acting, long-acting, or extended release varieties. In each of these varieties, the active ingredient is the same, but it is released differently in the body. Long-acting or extended release forms often allow a child to take the medication just once a day before school, so he or she doesn't have to make a daily trip to the school nurse for another dose. Parents and doctors should decide together which medication is best for the child and whether the child needs medication only for school hours or for evenings and weekends, too. For more information about stimulants and other medications used for treating mental disorders
, see the nimh mental health medications webpage. The food and drug administration (fda) website has the latest information on medication approvals, warnings, and patient information guides. What are the side effects of stimulant medications? the most commonly reported side effects are decreased appetite, sleep problems, anxiety, and irritability. Some children also report mild stomachaches or headaches
. Most side effects are minor and disappear over time or if the dosage level is lowered. Decreased appetite. Be sure your child eats healthy meals. If this side effect does not go away, talk to your child's doctor. Also talk to the doctor if you have concerns about your child's growth or weight gain while he or she is taking this medication.
Sleep problems. If a child cannot fall asleep, the doctor may prescribe a lower dose of the medication or a shorter-acting form. The doctor might also suggest giving the medication earlier in the day, or stopping the afternoon or evening dose. Adding a prescription for a low dose of a blood pressure medication called clonidine sometimes helps with sleep problems. A consistent sleep routine that includes relaxing elements like warm milk
, soft music, or quiet activities in dim light, may also help.
Less common side effects. A few children develop sudden, repetitive movements or sounds called tics. Changing the medication dosage may make tics go away. Some children also may have a personality change, such as appearing" flat" or without emotion. Talk with your child's doctor if you see any of these side effects. You can ask for special schools in your area.