ADHD Medications – Benefit or Risk? Research or Myths?

Are you newly diagnosed with ADHD and considering medication? Or do you have a child with ADHD and lack the answers you need for the next step on your ADHD journey? 

You are not alone!

The topic of medication for ADHD, whether its aimed for children or adults, can evoke both emotions and questions. Perhaps this is especially true for ADHD, which in some ways feels like a part of your or your child’s personality. Hope, doubt, and concerns about whether it will work may be accompanied by thoughts about treating a child because the school fails to adapt the teaching. In this blog, we will delve into the basics of ADHD meds and answer some of the most common questions that usually arise before or during treatment.

What does the research say?

There are few conditions where there is as much well-conducted research as in ADHD. For boys and men, that is. Unfortunately, there is practically no research today that guides either doctors or girls/women in how to think about medication in relation to different hormonal situations across life. Nevertheless, we know a lot about these medications on a more general level. For example, medication for ADHD can reduce ADHD symptoms and improve daily functioning for both children and adults with ADHD, and that is true for both sexes. And international guidelines state that medication should be offered as part of a comprehensive treatment program when a child or an adult receives an ADHD diagnosis.

Although ADHD medications are generally safe and effective for most people, it may also be clearly inappropriate for some individuals to use them. That’s why it’s crucial to undergo a thorough assessment of both your mental and physical health before trying medication. You should never borrow or try someone else’s medication. And its not certain that ADHD medications will have any effect on coexisting or comorbid disorders such as anxiety, depression, or eating disorders. In some cases, these problems may even worsen. It is this complex picture that makes the collaboration between you and your healthcare team so crucial.

1. Don’t focus on the effects when you start

Try not to overanalyze what you feel and what potential effectsyou might have of the medication during the first weeks of your medication . Instead, focus on whether you seem to tolerate the medication without experiencing any serious side effects. Long-term improvements can be evaluated over time, and you will need to have some patience (not the strongest trait for most with ADHD, we know), but for adults, it usually takes a bit longer to see changes. In fact, you should be on the lookout for positive changes throughout the entire first year with your new medication. Finding the right dose and treatment plan should be a collaboration between you and your treatment team.

2. Three individual, realistic, and objective treatment goals

Before starting any treatment at all, take some time to reflect on what you hope to improve once you start with your new medication. Ask yourself what part of your ADHD you hope to master and how you will evaluate ith you are moving in the right direction. Can you write down three concrete, realistic, and measurable treatment goals? These goals will be crucial reference points when you follow up the effect of the medication over time. Think like a researcher! How can you measure progress and any side effects as objectively as possible? Evaluating oneself during a period of change can be close to impossible, so if there is someone in your environment who can help you, it can provide invaluable information. Similarly, recording in the app becomes especially important during periods of initiation, escalation, and changing medications. So involve loved ones and use daily notes to track your development.

3. Planned follow-ups and good data

To create a smooth and safe treatment process, it’s important to have a planned follow-up with your treatment team. Although you can exchange a lot of experience with others using medication, don’t forget that all people and brains are different. You and your treatment team will evaluate how the medication affects you, and you may experience both effects and side effects that others do not experience from the same medication. Your caregiver will act on the feedback you provide and guide dose adjustments and treatment plans based on the information you have gathered. The more and better data you can collect, the greater the chance of landing on the right medication for you. Usually, you start with the lowest possible dose and gradually escalate based on your individual experiences. Make sure you have received a schedule to follow and stick to it.

4. Live as usual, but avoid alcohol

The fact that you are now starting ADHD medication doesn’t have to entail any other particularly significant changes in your life. If your doctor doensnt specifically advice against it, you can continue to exercise, eat, and work as usual. However, you should avoid alcohol when using central stimulant ADHD medication because it can alter and enhance the effect of the medication in a way that may be out of your control and even harmful. This is especially important at the beginning of treatment when you don’t yet know how you will react to your new medication, or if you are taking high doses. Additionally, the ADHD life is about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and alcohol has many other negative effects on health outside of how it affects your ADHD medication.

Remember! ADHD medications are safe and effective when taken by the right person, in the right way, and under the right follow-up. By collecting as much data about yourself, your well-being, and your hormones as possible, you increase the chances of a safe and effective ADHD treatment and a better balance in ADHD life.

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