ADHD Medication Comparison

Many parents and others are somewhat bewildered by the seemingly endless array of so-called ADHD medications.

While I am not a physician, our work with children and adults dealing with ADHD brings us into regular contact with these medications.

Consequently, I feel I have sufficient general knowledge of these medications to offer the reader what I hope will be some clarification about the various types of ADHD medications.

Three Types of Medications for ADHD

There are basically three types of ADHD medications:

  • amphetamine stimulants
  • methylphenidate stimulants
  • non-stimulants

Both types of stimulants also have short-acting and long-acting varieties.

The non-stimulant versions are long acting.  All of the amphetamine stimulants (e.g., Dexedrine, Adderall, Vyvanse) are variations of the basic chemical compound phenythylamine.

The  methylphenidate stimulants are variations of the basic chemical compound piperidine.  Both general chemical compounds act as stimulants to the nervous system.

The amphetamines are seen as affecting chemicals in the body that ultimately have an effect on one’s ability to control one’s actions.

The methylphenidates are seen as increasing levels of dopamine in the brain, which is theorized to have a causal relationship to ADHD symptoms.

The non-stimulant medication Strattera is seen as working on other receptors in the brain than dopamine.  Strattera is thought to increase the amount of norepinephrine which consequently increases one’s attention span.  Intuniv and Kapvay are variations of medications that were initially used to control blood pressure but were found to have a side effect of improving attention and impulsivity in people prescribed the medication.

Next Steps

In summary, one way of categorizing the ADHD medications is into categories of stimulants that are meant to affect body chemicals and ones meant to affect brain chemicals.

The same can also be said of the non-stimulant medications.  Given that we now know that ADHD is not a single entity, but a constellation of symptoms that appears in people as various subtypes, the question arises as to if there is a way, other than trial and error, to find the medication most appropriate to help your ADHD symptoms while minimizing your negative side effects.

A future blog entry will address side effects and the emerging science behind qEEG and ERP analysis that can help to give direction for ADHD treatment depending on the subtype.


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