Treatment of Adult ADHD
Treatment for adult ADHD varies depending on the individual, but research has shown prescription stimulants, also called psychostimulants, offer the most effective first-line approach for treating the majority of both adult and child ADD patients. Most physicians prescribe a combination of pharmacological and behavior modification therapy for adult ADHD treatment. Adult ADHD support groups can help too, as some patients find sharing common issues with other adults with the disorder very helpful. Participants not only share problems associated with ADHD, but offer tips and strategies that work for them and may help others as well. A one-on-one approach using ADHD coaching can also prove helpful.
Adult ADHD Treatments: ADHD Medications
Prescription stimulant therapy works in both child and adult ADD treatment by enhancing the availability of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, in the cerebral cortex of the brain. People with ADHD seem to have a reduced availability of dopamine, which represents one factor causing the impairments associated with the disorder. While stimulant medications speed up normal people, it has a calming effect on those with ADD, allowing them to function more efficiently in their daily lives.
Although many effective stimulant medications exist, two common ones, known for effectiveness in ADHD treatment for adults, include methylphenidate, sold under the name Ritalin®, and dextroamphetamine, sold under the name Dexedrine®. Adults with ADHD show reduced levels of impulsive behavior, improved attention span, and enhanced ability to concentrate for extended periods of time when treated with one of these stimulants.
Due to the complex nature of the central nervous system, the exact mechanism by which stimulants work to mitigate adult ADHD symptoms is not yet fully understood. However, it is clear that these medications decrease the internal noise caused by the disorder and cause external factors to seem less chaotic, allowing the individual to exert a level of self-control and functioning not possible without treatment.
Behavior Modification Therapy
Licensed therapists, specializing in ADD treatment for adults, can offer valuable education and tools to help the patient with personal organization, task prioritization, task follow-through, and large task management strategies. Many adults with ADHD have low self-esteem, especially if they did not receive help as a child. The problems and issues caused by their untreated disorder tend to chip away at their self-image as time passes. A therapist can help the adult examine events and internal dialogue that caused the poor self-esteem. From there, healing the wounds can begin. (read more about Adult ADHD Therapy)
Adult ADD Treatments and Patient Commitment
To increase the potential for treatment success, the patient must make a personal effort and commitment to follow their healthcare provider's instructions regarding medications and behavior modification exercises. Involving a close family member or friend to provide emotional support and encouragement along the way can go a long way toward achieving treatment success for the long-term.
Last Updated: 10 February 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD