ADHD Drug Heips Menopause Brain Fog

Alternative Medicine To Hormones Shows Promise

Brain Fog: A distessing symptom of midlife. Mache Seibel

With so much controversy surrounding estrogen and hormone therapy (HT), researchers are always looking for alternative medications for menopausal symptoms. Antidepressants have been a popular form of treatment for hot flashes. Now a different type of mental health medication is showing promise in a study published online June 11 in the journal Psychopharmacology.

The drug studied is usually used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD and it is showing promise in improving memory and concentration problems associated with menopause.

The medication's name is Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine). It's a stimulant that is usually prescribed for ADHD in both children and adults. In this study, it seems to improve "executive function" -- brain activities such as memory, reasoning, multitasking, planning and problem-solving in menopausal women.

Hot flashes, abnormal bleeding and insomnia are often talked about, but most women endure brain fog and memory changes that can really impact quality of life and work. Most women going through menopause struggle with memory loss, poor concentration, and short attention spans. Most of my patients complain about how disruptive and frustrating these symptoms can be and how it can have a major impact on the quality of their lives and of their work.

The study, funded by Shire, the drug's maker, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health randomly gave 32 women 40 to 60 milligrams of Vyvanse or a placebo daily for four weeks.

All were between ages 45 and 60, were either going through or just finishing menopause, and had complained of difficulties with executive function.

None had a history of ADHD, but all scored high enough on an assessment of symptoms to show they were experiencing executive function difficulties at the time of the study.

They also underwent several tests related to memory and attention.

After four weeks, the women had a two-week break before the groups switched. Women who got a placebo the first time now received the real medication and vice versa for another four weeks.

The researchers found that the women scored better on their symptoms assessments while taking the medication. They also scored better on one of the three memory and concentration tests while taking Vyvanse.

Not every woman is comfortable taking HT and some cannot take it due to other medical reasons. The women in the study did have slight increases in their blood pressure and heart rate while they were taking the medication but the increases stayed in the normal range overall. There were no other major side effects. It is a small study but it raises the possibility of a new medication for this common menopausal problem.

Some of the known side effects of Vyvanse include trouble sleeping, nervousness, dizziness, skin numbness, irregular heartbeat, headaches, nausea, vomiting, weight loss and loss of appetite. People with a history of heart conditions or a history of addiction or dependence should not take the medication because it is a form of stimulation that can be addictive.

The medication can also make some mood conditions, such as anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder or psychotic disorder worse. That can be a problem because menopause can also make those problems worse in some women due to lower estrogen levels, so the treatment should only last as long as the symptoms are major. After menopause, women should wean off the medication. If insurance doesn't cover the prescription, a 30-day supply of Vyvanse costs between $200 and $250. It may not be covered because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn't approved it for use in menopausal women.

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