Unlocking ADHD Writer, Hana Cheng, finds out what some of the common side effects of ADHD medication are.
Loss of Appetite
Appetite loss is a common side effect of stimulant medications. In many cases, this typically resolves itself in a matter of weeks as the body adjusts to the medication.
Extended release formulations are usually taken in the morning and designed to have an effect for much of the day. Those taking extended release medication may find their appetite suppressed for longer periods as well. It is advisable to monitor your eating patterns. Typically, breakfast will be unaffected while lunch tends to be influenced by a dip in appetite. Around or after dinner, the medication will have likely worn off and you may be hungry again.
If you are underweight, you may find short-acting medication to be more suitable. Similarly, in the case of children, monitoring your child’s weight is important. Ensure that your child has a hearty and nutritious breakfast before the medication kicks in. Before the next dose, make sure your child consumes some more food. If the child begins to lose total body mass, or experiences stunted growth, it will be necessary to see the prescribing doctor and request to change to a different type of medication.
Some people may find that struggling to fall asleep is a side effect of stimulant medication. Others have experienced sleeplessness even after the intended effects of medication have worn off. Some doctors may advise against stimulant medication in order to minimise the impact on sleep.
A little trial-and-error may be necessary in order to determine the cause of the sleeplessness. Pick an evening before a day when it is OK to sleep in (e.g., weekends). Take an additional dose of the usual stimulant around 8:00 p.m. If your child goes right to sleep, it’s a safe bet that the sleeplessness has been caused by a lack of medication. The problem can be remedied simply by continuing with the extra evening dose.
If this still proves ineffective, you may want to ask your doctor about using a type of non-stimulant medication called an alpha agonist such as guanfacine and clonidine. These help to lower hyperactivity and can be very effective for both hyperarousal during the day and sleep problems at night.
Stomachaches and Headaches
Stomachaches and headaches have been experienced while taking stimulant medication. Eating before taking the medication may reduce the severity of the headache, or even prevent it completely. If the aches still persist, non-stimulant medication may be an option to consider (with a prescription from your doctor).
Other Side Effects of Medication
Apart from those described above, other side effects of medication include anxiety (or feeling “on edge”), nausea, irritability, heightened emotions and tics. Most of these side effects can be managed with the help of your doctor.
Medication has been used for over 60 years to treat ADHD, and their efficacy is supported by hundreds of studies. Medication options have broadened in recent years. In general, the consensus has been that improvements in classroom performance, general behaviour, and family quality of life can result from including medication in ADHD treatment. Most of the side effects are considered as “non-serious”, making it possible to manage the impact of these side effects on a person’s life.
Medication and a combination of other behavioural treatments have been shown to have the most effective results. Overall, the benefits may outweigh the downsides where medication is concerned. That being said, each individual may respond to medication differently, and the circumstances may also be unique. Thus, a decision on whether to medicate or use alternative methods is ultimately up to the ADHDer and his or her family members, after discussion with a doctor experienced in treating ADHD.
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