Medications for ADHD: things to know

If ADHD symptoms are interfering with your life, medications can be an important tool to support you to thrive. Your psychiatrist will talk to you about your medication options, including their pros and cons. The best choice of medication for you will depend on many things, including the other diagnoses you may have. You may need to try more than one medication before you find one that works well for you.

Medications can be an important part of the treatment for ADHD, although they are definitely not the only part. There are a range of medication options, and each option comes with pros and cons. You and your psychiatrist can work together to figure out a plan of action, including a plan for whether to try medication, and which medication to try first. 

Medications come with risks as well as benefits. It will be important for you to learn about the pros and cons of the different options, and to decide how these fit in with what matters to you. You may need to try more than one medication before you find one that works well for you.

You and your treating team will look out for how the medication improves your symptoms, and

any side effects you experience while you’re on it. If the benefits are outweighed by the downsides, you can try other medications to see if they work better for you.

Jessie’s story

Jessie* is a 20-year-old woman from rural NSW who was studying an agricultural studies course at TAFE when one of her tutors suggested that she should look into whether she might have ADHD. Jessie had been struggling to keep up with her class work for a while, and was considering dropping out. But at the suggestion of her tutor, she visited her GP, and got a referral to Call to Mind. Jessie had never really had difficulties with hyperactivity symptoms and was surprised that her tutor and then her GP had raised the possibility of ADHD. She explained to them: “I just thought I sucked at school.” She had always had difficulty paying attention, even when the topics interested her. She was easily distracted and would get lost in her own thoughts.  Following a review with a psychiatrist and psychologist, Jessie was diagnosed with ADHD, with an inattentive presentation (because most of her symptoms were inattentive symptoms). She initially engaged in some ADHD coaching.  After discussing her options with her psychiatrist, Jessie decided to trial (try out) a stimulant medication. The first medication she tried did not improve her symptoms much, and she found it suppressed her appetite and made her feel anxious. So, her psychiatrist offered her an alternative.  Over the next 2-3 months of the second medication she tried, Jessie noticed a sustained improvement in her ability to focus, to the point where she “stopped noticing it was an issue.” She has now finished her course and she plans to work for a few years prior to further study.  *Not her real name.