How Does ADHD Medication Work? With Lots of Monitoring

Sustained focus. Less impulsivity. Improved mood. Better attention to detail... These are some of the signs that your ADHD medication is working. Learn what to do if you're not seeing these signs.

9/25/2020 5:01:00 PM

Sustained focus. Less impulsivity. Improved mood. Better attention to detail... These are some of the signs that your ADHD medication is working. Learn what to do if you're not seeing these signs.

ADHD medication isn’t always a magic bullet, and sometimes it just doesn’t work for certain individuals. Experimentation can get frustrating fast when a med isn’t working the way you’d hoped. To aid the process of finding the best treatment plan for you, learn how to recognize good and bad signs of a medication’s effectiveness — as well as how to solve common problems — by using these strategies.

8 of 196. Better SleepSome people report sleeping better once their medication begins working. This may be surprising, since many of us know thatare a common side effect of ADHD meds. This is true — sleeplessnessisa red flag to watch for — but, in some cases, medication actually helps those with ADHD fall asleep by quieting the racing thoughts that kept them up before. If you struggled to fall asleep in the past but now find that you drift off comfortably and quickly, it may be a sign that the medication is working.

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A boy sits in tall grass with his hood on, and wonders, “How do ADHD medications work?”9 of 19Now, for the bad signs. The most obvious sign a medicationisn’tworking? You aren’t feeling any of the positive signs mentioned in the last few slides. But even if you’re feeling some or many of them, the medication might still not be perfect. You might not feel the benefits as consistently or as strongly as you would like, or you might now be dealing with uncomfortable

— like headaches, nausea, or appetite loss. If this is the case, ask yourself these five questions:A woman closes her eyes and wonders, “How does ADHD medication work?”10 of 191. Is It the Wrong Medication?The first medication you try often isn’t right for you. If you’re taking the wrong medication, you may feel some of the benefits discussed earlier — but they’ll be faint, and any negative side effects will outweigh them by a considerable degree. To find out if you’re taking the wrong medication, ask yourself how you feel physically. Are you more irritable? Do you have a persistent headache? Are you sleeping worse than before? If you answer yes to any of these, you might be using the wrong medication.

A man sits in a waiting area, and asks his doctor, “How does ADHD medication work?”11 of 19Fixing the Wrong MedicationIf you think you’re taking the wrong medication, ask your doctor about switching. Make sure you try both types of stimulants (amphetamines and methylphenidates) — as well as a non-stimulant — before you give up on ADHD medication entirely. Remember: If you’ve only tried one ADHD medication, you haven’t really “tried ADHD medication” — you’ve just tried that one. If you don’t fully explore your options, you’re limiting your chances of finding the right treatment plan.

A woman sits at a cafe table reading and wonders, “How does ADHD medication work?”12 of 192. Is It the Wrong Dose?Some patients report that their medication feels good — productivity,, and mood are all improved with minimal side effects — but it doesn’t feel like

enough. Maybe you can focus for 20 minutes now instead of 5, but you still can’t get your work completed. In these cases, you might be taking thewrong dose— either too much or too little. In most cases, it’s too little, since prescribers typically start at the lowest recommended dose. But everyone responds to medication differently, and even a “low dose” might be too much for you. If you feel like your medication is helping, but could be doing more, talk to your doctor about adjusting your dose.

A woman holds a pill and a glass of water in her hands, and wonders, “How does ADHD medication work?”13 of 19New Year, New Dose?Staying on the same dose for too long can also be a de facto “wrong dose” — our brains change throughout our lives, and what worked for us when we started ADHD medication won’t necessarily work forever. This is particularly true for women, who cycle through

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dramatic hormonal changesas they age, which can greatly affect the effectiveness of their ADHD medication. If you’ve been on the same dose for a long time, periodically check in with yourself to assess how well it’s working. If it feels like it used to work better, you may need to change your dose.

A blur of people walking on the sidewalk wondering, “How does ADHD medication work?”14 of 193. Am I Taking It at the Wrong Time?It's possible you're taking your medication at the wrong time — either too early, too late, or at an incorrect frequency. Taking it too early means it wears off before you want it to, while taking it too late means it doesn’t kick in by the time you need it. For example: if you take your medication right as you’re heading out the door, and then spend the first hour of your workday stressed and unproductive, you’re probably taking the medication too late. If this sounds like you, try taking your medication first thing every morning.

A man asks a pharmacist, “How does ADHD medication work?”15 of 19Keeping Medication ConsistentPeople with ADHD often struggle to remember to take their medication on time, or to refill their prescription at the end of the month. This can lead to gaps in coverage — gaps that can make your medication less effective. To avoid this, implement a

medication reminder system. This might mean setting an alarm in your phone or on your computer, or setting up a visual reminder like a note taped to your front door reminding you to take the medication or refill it as needed.A group of elementary school children with ADHD run outsite to expend excess energy.

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