Many parents find it hard to handle their children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as these children have difficulty staying still and concentrating on tasks. Stimulant medication has been shown to be a safe and effective way to relieve these symptoms. These medications help children focus better and control their behavior. If you are a parent who is considering having your child take medication for their symptoms, this guide will explain the properties of different ADHD medications for kids.
Types of Medication
Stimulants are the most widely-used form of medication to treat ADHD. There are two types of stimulant medications — methylphenidate and amphetamine. They are both effective and have the same benefits and risks. Both come in the form of immediate-release (short-acting) medications and extended-release (intermediate and long-acting) medications. They can be taken as pills, crushed into foods, in liquid form, or in a chewable tablet form.
- Methylphenidate Medications
It is known by several brand names, mainly Ritalin, Focalin, and Adderall. The short-acting formulations last about 4 hours. All of them take about 30 minutes to take effect. As they are short-acting, they need to be taken 2-3 times a day, which causes significant wearing off between doses.
Long-acting options also take effect in under an hour, but do not wear off and thus only need to be consumed once a day. However, they tend to be more expensive.
Ritalin LA: Capsules that can be opened and mixed with food. Lasts about 6-8 hours.
Focalin XR: Capsules that can be opened and mixed with food. Lasts longer than Ritalin LA.
Concerta: One of the longest-acting options, lasting 8-12 hours. In traditional tablet form that has to be swallowed whole.
Quillivant XR: A liquid form of methylphenidate.
Quillichew ER: A chewable tablet that can last up to 8 hours.
Daytrana Patch: An alternative for kids who have difficulty swallowing pills. The patch can be worn for up to 9 hours and takes 1-2 hours to take effect.
- Amphetamine Medications
Adderall, Evekeo, Zenzedi, and Dexedrine are short-acting formulations that last about 4 hours. All of them take about 30 minutes to take effect as well. Amphetamines are slightly more potent than methylphenidate but both types have the same effects in general.
There are also long-acting options. Options include:
Adderall XR: The longer-lasting form of Adderall. Lasts for 10-12 hours. A capsule that can be opened and mixed with food.
Vyvanse: Lasts very long, up to 14 hours. Takes slightly longer in the morning to take effect.
Dexedrine Spansule: The long-acting form of Dexedrine. Lasts 6-8 hours.
Dyanavel XR: Liquid form of amphetamine. Lasts up to 10-12 hours.
Adzenys XR: A tablet that dissolves in the mouth and does not require swallowing. Similar response duration as Adderall XR.
Potential Side Effects
Most of the side effects are mild and can be handled by making tweaks to doses and dosage schedules.
Some common side effects that can surface are:
- Loss of appetite
- Problems with sleep (to avoid this, take the medication in the morning or early afternoon)
- Dry mouth
- Slow growth
- Weight loss
- Mood changes
To ensure that your child’s medication is the right choice, you should consider pharmacogenetic testing. Based on the test results, doctors can decide which medications to prescribe or avoid and the proper dosage required based on your child’s genetic profile.