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The Informed Parent

The “Many” Medications for ADHD

by John H. Samson, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Aug. 01, 2014

I am frequently asked, “Since there are dozens of medications for ADHD, why do pediatricians only use one or two of them?

The reality is there are NOT dozens of medications for ADHD. The following outline will be helpful for you to understand the situation:

Medications used for ADHD that help attention and excess motion are—

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Focalin, Concerta, Metadate, Daytrana, Methylin and Quillivant)
  • Amphetamine  (Dexidrine, Adderall, Vyvanse)
  • Provigel   (rarely used)

Medications that help with excess motion primarily and have little direct effect on inattention are--

  • Tenex (long-acting form = Intuniv)
  • Clonidine  (long-acting form = Kapvay)

Tenex and Clonidine are also helpful in controlling TIC disorders (Tourette’s syndrome)

Therefore we have two basic medications that effect attention and hyperactivity and two that effect hyperactivity with little direct effect on attention or focus.

Some patients require the use of Methylphenidate or Amphetamine with Tenex or Clonidine to control the hyperactivity aspect of ADHD. In these patients, if the motion disorder is ignored, we have a focused and attentive patient with excess unwanted distracting body motion.

We must remember the stimulant medication can increase the activity of the patient who has a concomitant TIC or motion disorder. In these patients the TIC disorder must be controlled with the prior mentioned medications.

So, there are not dozens of medications for the disorders. Those we have, when used properly can be life changers.

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