Question: I’m a 30-year-old male and I was just diagnosed with adult ADD. My doctor told me that I need to take medications to control it. What are the side-effects of attention deficit medications?
Adult Attention Deficit Disorder has become a more commonly recognized condition. It used to be believed that ADD only manifested in childhood and that most people “outgrow” it. It turns out a large number of ADD patients will have persistent symptoms into adulthood (a third or more). In addition, many individuals are not properly diagnosed with ADD until they are adults. It sounds like you may fall into this group. ADHD is the variant of ADD that includes “hyperactivity.” While many patients with ADD have hyperactivity (and thus carry a diagnosis of ADHD), it has been increasingly recognized that hyperactivity is not a requirement for the condition (and hence the term ADD).
The most commonly used medications to treat ADD are stimulants. This class of medications includes Adderall, Vvyanse, Ritalin, Concerta, Dexedrine, and related medications. All of these medications are related to amphetamine. They are modified to allow for a longer half life (i.e. a longer period of efficacy) because amphetamine itself is typically metabolized within a few hours. These medications increase dopamine secretion in areas of the brain’s cortex that are responsible for attention and concentration. They have been shown to be highly effective in ADD for controlling symptoms. However, they do have abuse potential, and therefore their use needs to be monitored by a psychiatrist. In addition, persons with ADD may develop tolerance to these medications, or the dosage may need to be adjusted for a variety of other reasons. Thus, it is imperative to be followed by a mental health professional.
Side effects of stimulants include: headache, thirst/dry mouth, palpitations, increased body temperature, sweating, problems sleeping (insomnia), decreased appetite and weight loss. Individuals who abuse these medications may be at risk for psychosis, and overdose on these medications can cause death. The good news is that being prescribed these medications by a psychiatrist and monitored closely is associated with benefits that outweigh the risks, including improved quality of life, success at work, and better relationships. Proper use of stimulants for ADD has also been shown to reduce risk of abusing drugs or alcohol.
At Principium Psychiatry, our providers are expert in the assessment and management of ADD and ADHD. Please call if you would like an assessment for ADD/ADHD or believe you would benefit from medication treatment for ADD/ADHD.
N.B. This blog is for informational purposes only and nothing in this should be construed as establishing a doctor patient relationship or the provision of medical advice.