Dr Balu Pitchiah MBBS, MRCPsych, CCST,MBA (OXON)

Which Medications Are Used to Treat ADHD?

Five different types of medication can be prescribed for ADHD treatment in the UK. Although these medications can’t cure ADHD, they may help to manage your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend one of the following drugs as part of your ADHD treatment:



1. Methylphenidate

The most common medication for ADHD, methylphenidate is a stimulant that can increase activity in the parts of your brain that control concentration and other aspects of your behaviour. You will usually need to take the tablets at least once a day. Potential side effects include loss of appetite, insomnia and headaches.

2. Dexamfetamine

Another type of stimulant that can boost activity in the areas of your brain that control your attention and behaviour. It is usually taken one or twice a day as a tablet, but a solution is also available that can be drunk instead. Some people can experience side effects such as mood swings, agitation and nausea.

3. Lisdexamfetamine

Lisdexamfetamine functions in the same way as dexamphetamine. It is taken once or twice a day as a capsule and is often continued into adulthood when it is effective. Possible side effects with this medication include drowsiness, nausea, and increased aggression.

4. Guanfacine

Unlike most of the other ADHD treatments, guanfacine is not a stimulant. Instead, it boosts your attention by acting on receptors in the brain. Guanfacine may be prescribed if stimulants haven‘t helped your symptoms. It is usually taken once a day as a tablet and can cause side effects such as fatigue, headache or a dry mouth.

5. Atomoxetine

Atomoxetine is another ADHD medication that is not a stimulant. It is a type of drug known as a selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor or SNRI. It boosts the levels of a chemical called noradrenaline that carries messages in your brain. This can help improve concentration and the ability to control your impulses. It is taken every day as a capsule. Potential side effects include dizziness, stomach ache and insomnia.

Other Treatments for ADHD

Medication can play an important role in ADHD treatment, but it will be most effective when used alongside other forms of treatment. Your doctor may also recommend behavioural therapies such as CBT and changes to your diet and lifestyle.