Pharmacologic Therapy

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Medication* may be an important part of the multimodal management plan for many patients with ADHD. However, medications may not be right for everyone. Patients need to work with their health care team to find the right management plan for their unique situation.

Consider the following key points about ADHD medications:

Advances in research have yielded several effective pharmacologic treatments that can help to control ADHD symptoms.

Many studies have documented the efficacy of ADHD medications in reducing the core symptoms of inattention, and hyperactivity/impulsivity in children, teenagers, and adults with ADHD. There are 2 major categories of medication for ADHD: stimulants and nonstimulants.1-2

Individuals may respond differently to different medications. It is important to closely monitor symptom improvement and medication side effects for each patient to tailor the individual management plan to the current needs. This can be especially important as a patient ages and his or her environment changes. 1-2

It is important to understand and communicate expectations regarding pharmacologic therapy.

Using medications to treat ADHD symptoms is not a one-size-fits-all approach, nor is it an exact science. In addition, medications may not be right for every patient with ADHD. To help manage expectations, patients and their families may need to be educated on some key points when using medications to treat ADHD symptoms:

  • Treatment must be individualized: The patient, family, and physician* need to work together to determine whether medication is appropriate and, if so, to identify the best medication for the individual patient.1
  • Deciding which ADHD medication is right for a patient may take time: Physicians* often need to try different dosages of a medication, or they may need to try more than 1 medication to find which works best in a given patient. This means that it may take time to find the optimal treatment regimen.1-2

*Only qualified physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants can prescribe medications to treat ADHD.


  1. Pliszka S; AACAP Work Group on Quality Issues. Practice parameter for the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007;46(7):894-921.
  2. Subcommittee on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Steering Committee on Quality Improvement and Management. ADHD: clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011:128(5):1007-1022, SI1-SI21.