Starting ADHD Medication

Tips before starting ADHD medication

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Medication, when appropriate, can be effective in helping a person manage his or her ADHD symptoms. It is important to remember, however, that medication does not “cure” ADHD and is only a piece of the overall treatment plan, which may also include ADHD education, parent training, behavioral management methods, organizational strategies, school/work accommodations, coaching, and counseling. For some individuals with ADHD, these combined treatments may even lead to a reduced need or smaller dosage of ADHD medication.

If you or your child is beginning a trial of ADHD medication, there are several helpful tips to know.

Get a Baseline Reading

Before beginning the medication, make notes of current behavior, sleep, appetite, and mood. These notes will serve as a baseline you can use to compare before and after medication patterns. This information will help you and the doctor differentiate what changes are related to the medication and what may be related to the ADHD that is being treated.

Let the Doctor Know About Any Other Medications Being Taken

It is important for the doctor to be aware of any other medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, that you or your child are currently taking. Medications can sometimes interact with one another, potentially causing problems or interfering with the potency of each other. Be sure to inform him of any supplements or vitamins, as well.

Ask About Other Possible Interactions

Ask the doctor if there are any foods, drinks or other medications that you or your child should avoid while on the ADHD medication.

Know Side Effects

Ask the doctor to clearly explain all possible side effects of the medication. Obviously, the benefits of the medication must outweigh the risks of potential adverse side effects. For the common, less serious types of side effects, ask your doctor what strategies you can utilize to help minimize effects.

It may be that taking food with the medication is helpful in reducing stomachaches or headaches or adjusting the schedule of the medication will help improve appetite or sleep problems, for example.

Understand About Dose Adjustments

The doctor will start at the lowest dose possible and adjust upward as necessary. Close communication is especially important during this time as you work together to reach optimal results. Know that the doctor may need to adjust the medication a number of times to find the most effective level. If side effects become problematic, a simple adjustment downward often solves the problem. If there does not seem to be significant improvement with the medication you or your child is taking, the doctor may begin a new trial with a different medication. Since everyone is different, it may be that an individual responds better to one medication over another.

Medication Fact Sheet

Be sure to ask your doctor for a copy of the medication fact sheet to take home and read more thoroughly. If questions come up while reading through the sheet, don’t hesitate to call the doctor.

Follow Administration Schedule

It is important to adhere to the doctor’s directions regarding the times the medication should be taken.

When medication is taken at consistent times during the day, you will have a clearer picture of its effectiveness. Ask the doctor what to do if you accidentally miss a dose or take too many doses.

Learn More About:
Stimulants Used to Treat ADHD
Non-Stimulants Used to Treat ADHD
Reducing Side Medication Side Effects

Source: Mohab Hanna, MD. Making the Connection: A Parent's Guide to Medication in AD/HD. Ladner-Drysdale. 2006.