Medication is currently the best form of ADHD treatment and works well for both adults and children. With the many medication options available on the market, each with its benefits and side effects that differ from person to person, finding the right medication can be tough.
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is based on the DSM V criteria where a person has times of inattention and of hyperactivity or impulsivity with multiple symptoms that occur in at least 2 different settings that impact quality of life. ADHD may reduce the quality of social, academic, or occupational functioning. When undiagnosed or untreated, living a normal life takes more effort and is often unattainable. Patients who are diagnosed later in life often regret not being treated sooner. ADHD affects health, income, friendships, marriages and more.
Treating ADHD appropriately is especially important to avoid high-risk practices that often accompany an ADHD diagnosis.
Untreated ADHD can increase the likelihood of:
- Poor money management
- Poor relationships
- Poor work performance
- Substance abuse disorders
- Traffic accidents
First-line treatment for ADHD is medication with or without behavior training. Medication effectively treats both children and adults with ADHD but finding the right medicine can be difficult considering the multiple options available. Each medication has its own benefit versus side effect profile; and at the same time, each acts differently from one person to the next. The right medication is essential for the best ADHD outcomes.
It is common for people to find their medications no longer seem to work or have become less effective. The medication may be affected by poor metabolism, hormonal issues, high blood pressure, poor sleep, or even food and beverages. How do you know if your ADHD medication has become less effective or has just stopped working for you and why?
Signs Your Medication Is Not Working
ADHD medications help reduce symptoms. If your symptoms recur after a period of previously being controlled or if the symptoms get worse, your medication may not be serving its purpose anymore.
You want an ADHD therapy that reduces symptoms yet has few to no side effects. Medications should reduce your symptoms such as inattentiveness, forgetfulness, hyperactivity, inability to follow directions/instructions, impulsivity or what your normal non-medicated ADHD presents as. Medications preferably should not lead to significant increases in heart rate or blood pressure. Jitteriness, irritability, moodiness, and headaches or stomach aches could also be signs the medicine is not the best match for you. Any side effects you may experience in the first few days should go away as your body becomes accustomed to the medicine.
For an accurate analysis of your medication’s effectiveness, measure the effects of your medication only during the time from when you first take the medication until it wears off. Any changes in your behavior or symptoms would normally appear during this period. Keeping a log of your symptoms along with details of your day including your sleep, eating, stress level, and time of medication will help immensely. When you have your next appointment remember to take this log with you. Your physician will better understand how the medicine affects you as well as be able to counsel on whether it may be appropriate to make any dietary or lifestyle changes.
Why Your ADHD Medication Is Not Working
- Since everyone’s genetic makeup differs, medication effectiveness can vary widely from person to person. Depending on your genetics, one stimulant, such as Adderall, may cause more side effects or may be less effective than another, such as Ritalin. The opposite may also be true. Your genetics may instead indicate stimulant medication of any kind is unsuitable to you, suggesting non-stimulant medication is the preferred choice. However, non-stimulant medication, such as Strattera, can also vary based on a person’s genetics.
- Our bodies go through changes with the passing of time, such as child development, puberty, aging, or weight gains/losses. As such, the medication you are currently taking may no longer be the right dose or type following these changes.
- The effectiveness of ADHD medication relies on the absorption capability in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, your metabolism, and passage through the blood-brain barrier. Our age and our health affect all these factors.
- Your lifestyle changes can lead to physical changes that affect the effectiveness of the medication as well. Dietary changes can affect your GI tract absorption capabilities. Life events that are stressful such as sudden changes in your environment or personal life, or a significant increase in workload can also interfere with your medication’s effectiveness. Healthy choices such as quitting alcohol or cigarettes, losing weight, or beginning to exercise can also affect how your medicine works. You may need a different dose after making such changes.
- Other conditions commonly experienced by people with ADHD are anxiety and depression, which can manifest new symptoms that make it seem that your ADHD medication is not working well.
Misdiagnosis of ADHD
- ADHD symptoms may also occur in other conditions. It is possible that the symptoms displayed could be due to autism, bipolar disorder, or sleep disruption rather than ADHD.
Steps To Take When Your Medication Is No Longer Working
If you feel that your current medication is simply not working for you or your child anymore, you should consult your medical provider who will either change the medication type or alter your dosage. Such changes will require an observation period to determine their effectiveness and side effects. skip the trial-and-error process instead. You can opt for genetic testing for ADHD medication to get an accurate recommendation of the type and dosage of medication best suited for you based on your unique genetic makeup.
ClarityX offers the Mindwell test. This pharmacogenetic test provides information on your personal response to more than 130 FDA-approved medications. A simple cheek swab will help you and your doctor understand what may work better in your body. Knowing ahead of time what works best for you or your loved one saves time, money, and heartache. Even if you have already tried other medications, this test will still help you narrow down future choices and may enlighten you as to why something did not work well before. The results remain valid because your genetics will not change.
It is possible to treat your ADHD appropriately. Just because one medicine is not working well does not mean there is not another better one for you. Pharmacogenetic testing helps you find the better one.