This episode focuses on the nuts and bolts of what ADHD coaching is all about: Training, structure of coaching and how it can help to manage the chaos in your life.
Are ADHD Meds Stimulants?
Yes and No. Not all ADHD medications are stimulants, but the vast majority of prescriptions are for stimulants.
So, let’s dig in a bit to understand them.
For most people dealing with ADHD, stimulant medications are effective and safe. Just the way reading glasses help our weak eyes focus better, stimulant medications help people dealing with ADHD focus their thoughts better. They help them in becoming more aware of their surroundings; they make them gain more control and pay attention to things around them. They are prescribed more often than non-stimulant medications
According to experts, stimulants are best when combined with another form of therapy such as behavioral therapy or coaching. According to researchers and studies conducted, around 80% of the children dealing with ADHD show great improvement when they are given stimulants in the correct dosage. I would predict that adults are similar, but there needs to be more research in this area.
In general, there are two types of stimulants that are used – the short-acting stimulants that are used as an immediate acting medication, and then there is extended-release that is used for long-acting. The first category of medication is usually taken when needed, like for an important event you might be planning when you really need to focus and be on point. Extended medications are taken once a day, usually in the mornings. Some common ones used are Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta. Clients that I have worked with say that, when they REMEMBER to take their meds, they can help manage the typical ADHD symptoms, such as impulsive behavior and short attention span allowing them to have a very productive day.
You may be wondering how they work. These medications boost the level of neurotransmitter brain chemicals such as norepinephrine and dopamine, which play a crucial part in one’s ability to be attentive and process information.
In simple words, they help the nerves found in our brain communicate with other nerves. As a result, you are able to focus better.
Just as eyeglass prescriptions are customized to a person’s unique vision problems, medication can be seen as the same. You want to get the correct type and dosage that is best suited for your conditions. Have you ever tried on someone else’s eyeglass prescription and it distorted everything in your view the wrong way? Well, think of having the wrong dosage of medication as a correlation. This is why it is always best to consult with a physician. You need to consider your own circumstances and health needs.
I must caution users to never try a medication from a friend or family member
Over the years, I have heard stories of parents that have used their kid’s prescription to see if it worked for them. This is not safe. Especially, for people with these complexities below, this group is cautioned to not take stimulants and a consult should be the first step.
–Severe anxiety, nervousness, tension or stress
- Tourette syndrome, or if it is there in family history
- Taking medication known as monoamine oxidase
- Psychotic or have a history of psychosis
When you meet with your physician they will discuss some options for you and the side effects that are possible with stimulants such as higher blood pressure, headaches, weight loss, loss of appetite, insomnia, social withdrawal and abnormalities in stomach. These generally go away after a few days, but if they don’t one must consult the doctor. Getting the medication right is an important piece of managing your ADHD. Do not ignore your symptoms and make sure to take note of how you are reacting to the medication plan.
Contrary to belief, sleep-related problems generally do not exist with a long-acting stimulant. I have heard of people who say that when they take their medications consistently it can actually help them have fewer thoughts as they go to bed and help them sleep better. I saw a comment once that said, “If I could actually count the sheep, I could get to sleep!” I think they were referring to the distracting thoughts that were happening while they were trying to focus on counting the sheep!
Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind while taking these stimulants –
- The medication must always be taken as prescribed. If there are any doubts or questions, one must call the doctor
- One should try to stick to a schedule to ensure the medicine is given at the same time every day
- If any dose is missed, the next dose should be given at the defined time
- Record how your body is reacting to the meds over time and share it with your doctor
I was listening to a podcast recently on the usage of stimulants for treating ADHD and someone had raised a question if these stimulants get someone high or if they are addictive. To this question, the experts replied that when these drugs are taken as directed by the doctors, they do not get people high. They help make people with ADHD feel “normal” where they could hold their thoughts and carry on conversations without being distracted or impulsively blurting out their every thought. Essentially, it helped people with ADHD be more successful in their lives. They went on to state that stimulants used for ADHD have no pieces of evidence that consuming them is habit-forming and nor leads to drug abuse. The reaction in a person with ADHD using a stimulant is the opposite effect of someone without ADHD using the prescription. There is a much higher risk of them ending up in the hands of someone who does not need the medication nor has ADHD and them abusing it. This leads to another focus of safe storage and educating people to never share their medication as I mentioned earlier.
When used appropriately, stimulant medication has changed lives for the better.
So now that you have a little information about stimulants, you can start to look at the types of stimulants that are available to you. There is a lot to learn about medications with more options coming into the market. It can be overwhelming. The best practice is to find a doctor who specializes in ADHD treatment plans and have a consult with them to determine what is the best plan for your unique situation. Be sure to ask what your options are for managing your ADHD given your health history and lifestyle. It makes a difference to the physician prescribing the medication to know which is best for you.
Just as you need to be informed about how the doctor may be able to help you, the doctor needs information about you to best help you.
ADHD Non-Stimulant Medication
Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. – Kofi Annan
When my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD we began a long journey of trying various medications and it was absolutely the most overwhelming experience I have ever had. I compared it to learning a new computer language. Sitting in the ever so busy doctor’s office, I knew that I had very limited time to understand the options that were going to be presented to use for a treatment plan. So, I hurriedly began searching for what my options would be on my phone while we waited in the reception room. This was one of the few times that I was actually happy they were running behind schedule.
I had every intention to look it up ahead of time, but between work, after school sports, being the homework Sargeant, laundry, dinner, and my latest Netflix binge, I forgot to do it!
This was my chance to get informed. Well, let’s just say before I dug into the various drug options, I had no idea there was such a thing as stimulant and non-stimulant options. So, if you were just like me, I just thought they were all one big category for ADHD. BUT as I found in my searches, I needed to REALLY set time aside and learn the different categories, how she might react to each one based on her diet, body type, and other factors. It was all so overwhelming that when we finally went into the appointment, I succumbed to what the doctor recommended. I later came to find out that they really didn’t know what would be best for us either without a lot more trials.
It is a long process that takes dedication and education to gain knowledge of the individual and how they respond to the medications. I had assumed we could just walk into the office and get a script, work on some strategies at home and be done. That day opened a whole new educational journey for me and one I want to help others become informed OR at least know there is a lot to know when determining a medication treatment plan. It is not a one medication that works best for the general population.
We are unique individuals and the treatment plan needs to represent that.
The ones suffering with ADHD are generally prescribed stimulants. However, there can be certain side-effects of stimulants and in that case, non-stimulants are prescribed. It also happens when one may have certain other ailments or conditions, if one’s system does not respond to stimulants or if their usage is resulting in side-effects. We tried both to come up with a plan that would work and it took months to get it right.
Following is a list of ADHD non-stimulation medication list:
- Strattera or Atomoxetine
One of the first FDA approved medications for ADHD, Strattera boosts the amount of norepinephrine in the brain. It decreases the defiance, opposition, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity and increases attention span. It can be consumed by anyone above the age of six. Since it is a non-stimulant medication, it is not a controlled substance and negates the possibility of potential abuse. It has also been classified as a first-line therapy for ADHD. This medication has to be taken daily without a break for results that fully appear in six weeks and may last for more than 24 hour.
The side-effects are increased heart rate and anxiety, increased blood pressure, weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, irritability, and agitation. It is advisable to take this medication with food for lesser or no side-effects.
- Intuniv or long-acting Guanfacine
The drug is effective in decreasing distractibility and increasing memory, attention and sharpening the impulses. It can be consumed by anyone above the age of six.
Approved by the FDA, this drug is not a controlled substance. It takes four to six weeks to show maximum results.
The side-effects may include headaches, stomach-aches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, sleepiness, lethargy, dropped blood pressure and appetite as well as irritability.
- Kapvay or long-acting Clonidine
To be taken twice a day for maximum results, this drug is FDA approved as well. Alike the aforementioned drug, long-acting Guanfacine, also known as long-acting agonists, the drug can be consumed along with stimulants to eradicate any symptoms left behind after the usage of stimulant medication.It can be consumed by patients above the age of six and shows effects on certain areas of the brain.It is effective in lowering distractibility and increasing memory and attention and controlling impulses.
The side-effects may include fatigue, nausea, lethargy, headaches, sleepiness, low blood pressure, irritability, and decreased appetite.
- Tricyclic Antidepressants
Drugs such as
- Imipramine or Tofranil
- Nortriptyline or Pamelor
- Amitriptyline or Elavil
- Desipramine or Norpramin
are known as tricyclic antidepressants and are prescribed when stimulants fail to show any effect. They are effective when the patient is suffering with ADHD and anxiety or depression.
These drugs boost norepinephrine in the brain. The therapeutic benefits can take days or weeks to show an effect. However, once achieved, the effects can last for more than 24 hours at a stretch or more. The dosage must be daily. Skipping a day of dosage can result in symptoms of flu and aches. Hence, tapering off eventually rather than a stoppage of intake abruptly is advisable.
The side-effects noticed may be insomnia, headaches, stomach-aches, vivid dreams, blurred vision, drowsiness, constipation, and dry mouth.
It is advisable to consult a doctor to be prescribed drugs and discuss what is available for your unique situation. Be an involved and informed patient. Knowing your options early will prepare yourself for the decisions when you are at the doctor’s office. Knowledge is power!
Michelle Raz specializes in helping people with executive function challenges associated with ADHD, Stress, TBI’s and ASD find careers they will love and land them. Read more at www.razcoaching.com/about Or sign up for the weekly blog and learn about my new book Happiness+Passion+Purpose.
When Greta Thunberg Boldly confronted the world she said she has tapped into her Super Power gift that being on the spectrum has given her. ADHD shares some traits of Aspergers such as a lack of inhibition. It just might help you stand out from the crowd and show your leadership strengths when combined with a deep passion and support from resources to help convey your message.