Treating ADHD: Medicine

Woman putting pill bottle in locking box in kitchen cabinet while boy makes sandwich.

In many cases, medicine is part of a child’s treatment plan. These medicines provide a steady supply of the chemicals needed to send and receive messages within the brain.

Sending messages

Certain stimulants cause some sites in the brain to send stronger messages. When the messages are stronger, the child has better control over attention and activity. Stimulants work quickly and last a few hours. Extended release or long-acting stimulants may also be prescribed once your child's dose has been regulated by his or her healthcare provider. 

Receiving messages

Some antidepressants help the brain receive messages better. Used to treat depression and inattention, these medicines are taken daily.

Be aware

It may take a few tries to find the best medicine for your child. The amount and time of use may also need to be adjusted. In some cases, your child may need to be checked for side effects. If medicine doesn’t help, think about having your child reevaluated.

Parent’s role

Recommendations of what you can do to help your child: 

  • Learn about the medicine your child takes, any side effects that might happen, and what results you can expect.

  • Seek a second opinion if you have concerns about how your child’s treatment is being managed.

  • Make sure you, the school staff, and other caregivers follow all directions for giving your child medicine.

  • Watch your child for positive changes both at home and in school. Keep track of any side effects. Tell your child's healthcare provider what you or others observe.

  • Avoid running low on medicine. Some prescriptions are special and need extra time to fill.

Child’s role

Here are suggestions for what you can do: 

  • How do you feel after you take your medicine? Tell your parents and healthcare provider how you feel.

  • Your medicine comes in a pill. If you can’t swallow the whole pill, ask your parents how to make it easier.

  • Learn when to take your pill. Remind your parents or teachers when it is time.

  • If someone teases you about taking medicine, talk to your parents or teacher. They can help you decide what to tell that person.