Typical treatment for ADHD in adults typically includes medication, education regarding ADHD, skills training and psychological counseling. A combination is usually the most effective treatment approach. Stimulant medication is the most common medication used for ADHD and is an effective way of managing symptoms that may include short attention span, distraction, loss of objects (car keys, cell phone), procrastination, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity.
Stimulant medications improve ADHD symptoms in roughly 70% of adults and 75% to 80% of children. Improvements include reduction in interrupting, fidgeting, and other hyperactive symptoms, as well as improved ability to start, and finish tasks and more efficient time management.
Stimulant medications include either methylphenidate or amphetamine products. They boost and balance levels of brain chemicals such as Dopamine. Stimulant medications are not habit-forming when used to treat ADHD in children and adolescents. Interestingly there is no evidence that stimulant use leads to drug abuse. Nonetheless, there is always a potential for abuse and addiction with any stimulant medication. This is especially true if a person has a history of substance abuse. Research has proven that individuals with ADHD actually have a lower incidence of substance abuse if they are properly treated for their ADHD.
There are many stimulant medications available: short acting (immediate-release), intermediate-acting, and long-acting forms. Common stimulants include:
- Adderall and Adderall XR
- Daytrana (Patch)
- Focalin and Focalin XR
- Ritalin and Ritalin LA and Ritalin SR
The short-acting forms of the drug are commonly required 2 or 3 times a day and the long-acting usually once a day.
Other medications used to treat ADHD include Atomoxetine (a nonstimulant that works on norepinephrine), guanfacine and certain antidepressants that commonly include Bupropion. The above three options work slower than stimulants do, quite often several weeks or months but these may be viable options if stimulants cannot be used (prior side effects, hypertension, abuse etc).
Counseling for adult ADHD generally includes psychotherapy in its multitude of forms, education about having and living with ADHD, its impact on ones life and learning skills to help aid in success
Common Psychotherapy goals:
- Improve time management and organizational skills (being to appointments on time, handing in assignments, placing keys and wallet in a safe, common place daily)
- Learn how to reduce impulsive behavior (blurting out answers, speeding in a car to be on time)
- Cope with past academic, work or relationship failures “if only I tried this medicine as a teenager”
- Improve self-esteem
- Decrease procrastination
- Learn ways to improve relationships with your family, friends, loved ones and fellow workers