Information Source on Deficit Disorders



Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years. It is hard for these children to control their behavior or pay attention. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD, is one of the most common mental disorders that develop in children. Children with ADHD have impaired functioning in multiple settings, including home, school, and in relationships with peers. If untreated, the disorder can have long-term adverse effects into adolescence and adulthood.

The principal characteristics of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms appear early in a child's life. Because many normal children may have these symptoms, but at a low level, or the symptoms may be caused by another disorder, it is important that the child receive a thorough examination and appropriate diagnosis by a well qualified professional.

Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder will appear over the course of many months, and include:

Diagnosing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

If ADHD is suspected, the diagnosis should be made by a professional with training in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This includes child psychiatrists, psychologists, developmental/behavioral pediatricians, behavioral neurologists, and clinical social workers. After ruling out other possible reasons for the child’s behavior, the specialist checks the child’s school and medical records and talks to teachers and parents who have filled out a behavior rating scale for the child. A diagnosis is made only after all this information has been considered.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is more common in boys than girls, and it affects 3-5 percent of children in the United States.

No one knows exactly what causes Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It runs in families, so genetics may be a factor. A complete evaluation by a trained professional is the only way to know for sure if your child has ADHD. Treatment often includes medicines to control symptoms. Structure at home and at school is also important. Parenting classes or behavioral therapy may also help.

Treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - Effective treatments for ADHD are available, and include behavioral therapy.

Medicines for ADHD

Some medicines used to treat attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are called psycho stimulants. Some of these drugs are methylphenidate (brand names: Concerta, Ritalin), dextroamphetamine (brand names: Dexedrine, Dextrostat), d- and l-amphetamin racemic mixture (brand name: Adderall), and pemoline (brand name: Cylert). Although these medicines have a stimulating effect in most people, they have a calming effect in children and adults who have ADHD.

Other types of medicine sometimes used to treat ADHD include atomoxetine (brand name: Stratera), clonidine (brand name: Catapres), desipramine (brand name: Norpramin), imipramine (brand name: Tofranil) and buproprion (brand name: Wellbutrin).

Side Effects of ADHD Medicines

All medicines have side effects. Psycho stimulants may cause a decreased appetite, a stomachache or a headache. The loss of appetite can cause weight loss in some people. This side effect seems to be more common in children. Some people have insomnia (trouble sleeping). Here are some ways to avoid side effects (such as a fast heart beat, chest pain or vomiting) when taking psycho stimulants:

How should Medicine for ADHD be Taken?

It's important to take the medicine just the way your doctor says -- not more often and not less often. Follow your doctor's advice even if you think the medicine isn't working. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you think the medicine isn't working.

It's best to take the medicine 30 to 45 minutes before a meal. Good times to take this medicine are before breakfast and before lunch. Lunch-time doses can be given at school for some children. If your child can't take this medicine at school, tell your doctor. Your doctor might suggest a long-acting form of the medicine instead. The long-acting form of this medicine should not be crushed, broken or chewed before swallowing. The long-acting forms are taken only once a day, right before breakfast.

It's also important to know that some of the medicines used to treat ADHD are called "controlled" drugs. There are special rules about the way controlled drugs can be prescribed. The prescriptions for controlled drugs, such as methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine, must be refilled at the drug store every month. At some doctors' offices, these prescriptions are only written on 1 day of the month.

Will the Medicines also Help with Other Problems?

The medicines used to treat ADHD have been shown to improve a person's ability to do a specific task, such as pay attention or have more self-control in certain situations. It is not known whether these medicines can improve broader aspects of life, such as relationships or learning and reading skills.

How Long will this Treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Last?

The length of time a person takes medicine for ADHD depends on each person. Everyone is different. Some people only need a short treatment for 1 to 2 years while some people need treatment for many more years. In some people, ADHD may continue into adolescence and adulthood.

People who have ADHD should be checked regularly by their doctors. During these checkups, the doctor will want to hear what the parents have to say about a child with ADHD. Your doctor may suggest that your child take a break from his or her medicines once in a while to see if the medicine is still necessary. Talk with your doctor about the best time to do this, like school breaks or summer vacation might be a good time. A teacher's comments about the child are also important.