Medication management of ADHD

By Dr Tommy TranGeneral29 Aug 2015


A lot of parents are concerned about using medication in the management of ADHD. They are often worried about changing their child’s personality or turning them into a zombies. This often reflects either using the wrong medication, or using too much medication. With careful collaboration with your paediatrician, a good result can be achieved in most cases.

There are two main groups of medication used to treat ADHD, stimulants and non-stimulants.


Stimulant medication:

There are two main types of stimulant medication, methylphenidate and dexamphetamine.  Their trade names and length of action are summarised in the table below.


Ritalin (4 hours)
Ritalin LA (8 hours)
Concerta (12 hours)
Dexamphetamine (4 hours)
Vyvanse (12 hours)


As you can see Ritalin, Ritalin LA and Concerta contain the same active ingredient, but in different formulations which affects their length of action. Stimulant medications work by increasing the amount of dopamine in the frontal lobes of the brain. The most common side-effects are appetite suppression and affecting children sleep. It is generally safe to come off their medication over the school holidays.



Strattera is the main non-stimulant used to treat ADHD. It works by increasing the amount of noradrenaline in the frontal lobes of the brain. The main indication for using Strattera is for children with significant anxiety, tics or poor weight gain. The only downside of Strattera is that it takes 14 weeks to achieve optimal efficacy.

In most cases, medication works very well for the short-term control of ADHD symptoms. Should you have any questions about your child’s medication, please consult with your paediatrician.


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