There is no miracle cure or any one particular miracle doctor for AD/HD. Therefore, the best approach to treatment is one which is both multidisciplinary and multimodal. Both medication and dietary intervention are important treatments at the college age.


Someone with AD/HD may need medication just as much as someone with a serious physical disorder, such as diabetes. Medication can calm down a person with AD/HD and drastically change their behavior and attention levels. Although medication has proven to considerably improve the chemical imbalance that is expected to cause AD/HD, medication should never be used without also learning to cope with having the disorder. A person with AD/HD will only see the benefits of medication as long as the drug is in his/her system. However, the medication may control their attention levels and focus long enough for them to learn other ways to treat their symptoms, such as coping methods, self-control and dietary intervention. Understanding your own disorder and learning to live with it will prove to be a longer lasting treatment than medication alone.

Stimulant Medications

The most commonly prescribed class of drugs to treat AD/HD symptoms is stimulant medications. Even though we do not know exactly why stimulant medications are effective, they have been proven to reduce AD/HD symptoms in about 75% of the people who take them. Stimulants directly affect a student's over activity, inattention, impulsivity and aggression. Some indirect improvements from the stimulant medications include improved academic achievement in both quantity and quality, increased compliance with commands and increased positive social interaction.

Side effects

Long term: If used correctly, there are no long-term effects of stimulants.

Short Term: Abdominal pains, nausea, dry mouth, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, temporary personality change, itching and depression.

Ritalin (methylphenidate)

  • Most commonly prescribed drug for the treatment of AD/HD symptoms.
  • Not recommended for people with excessive anxiety, motor tics or a family history of Tourette’s syndrome.
  • As of 2000, 1.5 million people in North America take Ritalin.
  • 80% of the world’s Ritalin is used in the United States.

Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)

  • Prescribed much less then Ritalin but is used if Ritalin has bad side effects for the individual person.
  • Approximately 3% of people taking stimulant medications take Dexedrine.
  • Those with excessive anxiety, motor tics or a family history of Tourette’s syndrome should not take Dexedrine.

Cylert (pemoline)

  • 6% of people that have AD/HD take Cylert.
  • Cylert reduces AD/HD symptoms in 75% of people who take it.
  • More severe side effects than the other stimulant medications, specifically liver damage.
  • May cause insomnia and anxiety.
  • Long lasting, requires only one dose per day.
  • Positive effects from the drug cannot be seen for up to a week after the person first takes it.


  • Contains equal amounts of dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulphate and amphetamine sulfate.
  • Lasts between 6 and 8 hours.
  • Not commonly prescribed due to a higher occurrence of side effects.


Stimulant medications simply do not work for some people with AD/HD or they produce unwanted side effects. Antidepressants may help if stimulant medications do not. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to adults with AD/HD because of their tendency, unlike children, to become addicted to stimulant medications. Antidepressants moderately improve AD/HD symptoms in 60% of those who take them. Common side effects are sleeplessness, loss of orgasm, irritability and headaches.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

  • Less than 1% of people being treated with AD/HD are taking tricyclics.
  • More commonly used when co-morbid conditions such as an anxiety or mood disorder or Tourette’s syndrome exist.
  • Improves AD/HD symptoms in 75% of people who take it.
  • Some common tricyclics are Norpramine (desipramine), Trofanil (imipramine), Pamelor (nortriptyline) and Elavil (amitriptyline).

Dietary Intervention

In many cases, a healthy and well balanced diet can improve AD/HD symptoms. It has been seen that a small group of AD/HD patients respond positively to dietary interventions such as taking vitamins and minerals, changing their diet to suit their individualized needs and/or eating one of the special diets associated with AD/HD.

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