Keep Kids Healthy

Choosing the Best ADHD Medication for Your Child

There are a lot of options when it comes to treating kids with ADHD.

In addition to behavioral therapy, there are a number of different stimulant and non-stimulant medications.

How do you choose the best ADHD medication for your child?

Is there a best ADHD medication for your child?

What Types of ADHD Medication Are Available?

When DSM-II was published, in 1968, Ritalin and Adderall had already been studied and were being used to treat hyperkinetic children with minimal brain dysfunction syndrome.

Whether your child’s ADHD symptoms include problems with inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, or both, the treatments are the same:

Remember, that although often underused, it is recommended that behavior therapy be the first treatment for younger, preschool children with ADHD. Both medication and behavior therapy are typically recommended for older children with ADHD.

Other off-label medications for ADHD that are also sometimes used include bupropion (Wellbutrin), tricyclic antidepressants such as desipramine (Norpramin), and imipramine (Tofranil), and modafinil (Provigil or Nuvigil).

Yes, we have come a long way from Dr. Charles Bradley’s first studies of benzedrine (racemic amphetamine) in 1937.

How to Choose ADHD Medication for Your Child

Once you start looking at medication options, the first thing to keep in mind is that there is no one single ADHD medication that is better than others for all kids.

The best ADHD medication is going to be the one that your child will take and which controls your child’s symptoms without side effects (or with minimal side effects) for as long as you need it to, without costing an arm and a leg.

So, do you want an ADHD medication that comes as a chewable pill, a pill or capsule that your child can swallow, a capsule that can be opened and sprinkled on food, a dissolvable tablet (ODT), a liquid, or a patch?

How long do you want it to last? 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 hours?

Is your child going to take it every day or just on school days?

What ADHD medicines has your child already tried?

Answering those questions will help to narrow down which ADHD medicine might be best for your child.

ADHD Medications

Again, there is really no one best ADHD medicine.

“…stimulant medications are highly effective for most children in reducing core symptoms of ADHD.”

American Academy of Pediatrics ADHD Clinical Practice Guideline

And you don’t even have as many options as you think you do.

While it may seem like there are dozens of medications available to treat ADHD now, most are really just different variations of the same few active ingredients.

And if you don’t have insurance or if you have have a high deductible, you will want to know that those that aren’t yet generic (in bold) are going to be much more expensive than the others:

In general, stimulants are thought to work better than non-stimulants, but again, there isn’t one stimulant that is consistently better than another.

And there isn’t one medication that targets specific symptoms better than another, so you don’t need to look for a specific medication just because your child has the inattentive type of ADHD vs another who is also hyperactive and impulsive.

Deciding Which Medication Is Best for Your Child

Which ever medicine you choose, you typically want to start at a low dose and slowly adjust the dose up or down as necessary based on how well it is working and whether or not your child is having any side effects.

“…more than 70% of children and youth with ADHD respond to one of the stimulant medications at an optimal dose when a systematic trial is used.”

American Academy of Pediatrics ADHD Clinical Practice Guideline

Keep in mind that:

Most importantly, know that you can take out a lot of what might seem like guess work if you have a good understanding of how these medications work.

What To Know About Choosing an ADHD Medication

For the great majority of kids with ADHD, one of the many available medications will help to control their symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Learn how to choose the best one for your child.

What To Know About Choosing an ADHD Medication

Updated February 7, 2018