Could Non-Stimulant Meds Work for My ADHD?

ADHD. This is a bit of a buzz word currently. ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A little-known fact about this disorder is that it is usually diagnosed in childhood and lasts into adulthood. It can adversely affect the normal functions and development of a human being.

According to the CDC, The number of children aged 3–17 years ever diagnosed with ADHD, according to a national survey of parents, is 6 million (9.8%) using data from 2016-2019. 

In a report by WebMD, It is also estimated that ADHD affects at least 8 million American adults or 5% of adults. Less than 20% are even aware that they have it. 

It is safe to say that underdiagnosis and undertreatment in adults is a real possibility. 

What is ADHD?

This neurodevelopmental disorder is characterized by a repeated pattern of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity

It simply means that this disorder affects your attention span, makes you feel restless, and increases impulsivity. This can affect every area of a person’s functioning.

What Can Be Done? 

Treatment Options:

ADHD is most effectively treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. 

Psychotherapy: You may discuss topics like time management, improving communication, boosting self-esteem, avoiding or coping with triggers, learning about how to live with ADHD, etc.

ADHD. Stimulant Drugs. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Ohio

For the purpose of this post, lets focus on medication treatment.

Medications are divided into 2 groups:

Stimulant Medications: These include methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta), amphetamines (Vyvanse, Adderall), etc.

Non-stimulant medications: These include atomoxetine (Strattera), guanfacine (Intuniv), viloxazine (Qelbree), clonidine (Kapvay).

What are non-stimulant medications?

Non-stimulant medications are drugs that primarily work to increase the amount of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine in the brain and reduce its degradation. They do not stimulate nor suppress brain activity to reduce the symptoms of ADHD.

The main difference between stimulant and non-stimulant medications for ADHD is that stimulants are controlled substances while non-stimulants are not controlled.

It is well understood that Controlled Medications (Stimulants) can create issues with dependency, tolerance, and are more prone to abuse.

So Which is Best for Me?

If you have ever been on stimulant medication or know someone who has been on them / or is currently taking them. The following may sound familiar:

·       Increased sweating

·       Increased heart rate

·       Insomnia

·       Tremors

·       High irritability

·       Sometimes aggression

These are some of the risks of taking stimulant medication. 

Stimulant MedicationNon-Stimulant medication
Increased risk of drug dependencyLittle or no risk of drug dependency
More severe side effectsFewer side effects
Faster actingOften take longer to start working
Causes weight loss and impacts heightNot as much of a concern comparatively
Increases levels of dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.Primarily increases level of norepinephrine
Withdrawal or stopping could lead to a crashTapering off has less issues with withdrawal.

For example, when the drug wears off, you may suffer a dopamine crash. This leaves you feeling low, worn out, anxious and unsure. This feeling leads to need for more medication in order. 

This in turn can lead to dependency and increased drug tolerance. Tolerance means that if it took one pill to suppress your symptoms, over time you may need to increase the number of pills you take to achieve the same effect. (There is a reason why Adderall is heavily sought after in the black market)

With non-stimulant medications, the chances of drug dependency and increased tolerance are extremely low. Non-stimulatant medications take up to 4 weeks to fully take effect. This enables you to actively journal your progress with your healthcare provider.

If you are one of the few that did not respond to or tolerate stimulant medication, then non-stimulants may be a great choice for you.

However, non-stimulant medications are not without risks or side effects.

Side Effects of Non-Stimulant Medications

·       Nausea

·       Dizziness/ Headaches

·       Abdominal pain

Conclusion: Choosing a stimulant or non-stimulant Medication should be a decision between you and your doctor. Either may be a valid solution. There is a great deal of evidence to support the efficacy of non-stimulant medications in the treatment of ADHD. These medications are well-tolerated and effective in reducing symptoms of ADHD. 

If you are struggling with ADHD and you are seeking an option besides stimulant medication, consider talking to your Spectrum Mental Health Care provider about non-stimulant medication. It may just be what you need.

Contact PsychCare Anywhere today to discuss an evaluation and your treatment options.