top of page

Finding the Right ADHD Medication: Stimulants vs. Non-Stimulants in Philadelphia and the Main Line



Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that makes it challenging to sustain focus, control impulses, and manage restless energy. While


Unlock your potential through accurate ADHD diagnosis, medication, coaching in Philadelphia with Renewing Mindsets after science-based testing and evaluation.

therapy and coaching help develop coping skills, medication is often required to adequately treat ADHD symptoms. The most common types of medication used are stimulants and non-stimulants.


Stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin tend to provide rapid and robust improvements but have a higher risk of side effects and misuse. Non-stimulants including Strattera, Intuniv, and Wellbutrin may have a slower onset and lower abuse potential but may not relieve symptoms as completely. Finding the optimal ADHD medication involves carefully evaluating the pros and cons of both stimulant and non-stimulant options.


How Stimulants Work for Treating ADHD


Stimulants are usually the first choice for ADHD medication because they target neurotransmitter deficits related to ADHD symptoms. Stimulants prescribed for ADHD include:


  • Methylphenidate - Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana patch

  • Dextroamphetamine - Dexedrine, ProCentra

  • Amphetamine mixtures - Adderall

  • Lisdexamfetamine – Vyvanse


Stimulants enhance the activity of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. This strengthens functioning in the prefrontal cortex responsible for executive functions like attention, focus, organization, emotional control, and working memory.


For 70% of people with ADHD, stimulants may offer significant relief from distractibility, restlessness, emotional volatility, disorganization, and difficulty completing tasks. Effects begin within 30-60 minutes and last 4-12 hours depending on the formulation.


Some downsides may be appetite suppression, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, headaches, and the need to take medication multiple times per day once effects wear off. These medications also have a high risk of abuse and addiction so require close monitoring.


How Non-Stimulants Can Improve ADHD Symptoms


For those who can’t tolerate stimulant side effects or have substance abuse risks, non-stimulant medications may

present an alternative option:


  • Atomoxetine - Strattera

  • Guanfacine - Intuniv

  • Clonidine - Kapvay

  • Bupropion - Wellbutrin

  • Viloxazine - Qelbree


These non-stimulant medications modulate norepinephrine, dopamine or both. Effects emerge gradually over weeks but cn provide 24-hour symptom relief.


Potential advantages of non-stimulants are less risk of abuse, lower insomnia/appetite issues, and treating co-existing conditions like anxiety or depression. They may cause fatigue, stomach upset, irritability, dizziness or headaches.


Diagnostic Testing is the First Step to ADHD Medication


Thorough diagnostic testing confirms an ADHD diagnosis before starting medication treatment. The evaluation gathers critical information to guide medication choices including:

  • Severity of core ADHD symptoms

  • Presence of co-occurring conditions

  • Cognitive strengths and weaknesses

  • Response to any prior ADHD medications

  • Family history of medication effectiveness/side effects

  • Substance abuse risk factors


Armed with comprehensive diagnostic results, providers can make informed medication recommendations tailored to each patient’s needs. Starting medication without objective testing often leads to months of frustrating trial-and-error.


What to Expect When Beginning ADHD Medication With Renewing Mindsets


Once testing validates an ADHD diagnosis, should you choose medication, the medication trial process begins. For stimulants:


  • Effects emerge within an hour but aren’t fully realized for a week or two

  • Titration up in dose occurs every 1-2 weeks until optimal effects are achieved

  • Short-acting formulations like Ritalin determine effectiveness before trying long-acting versions

  • Appetite, sleep and mood are closely monitored

  • Drug holidays every few months help reduce tolerance


For non-stimulants:


  • Therapeutic effects may take 4-6 weeks to fully develop

  • Maximal doses are usually reached within 8 weeks

  • Screens for emotional blunting, fatigue and blood pressure changes

  • Can be combined with a stimulant if monotherapy isn’t sufficient


Expect the process to take a couple months. Be patient, track progress/side effects, and collaborate closely with your treatment team.


Lifestyle Modifications That Can Enhance Medication Effectiveness


While medication provides the core treatment for most with ADHD, certain lifestyle adjustments and holistic practices can amplify benefits:

  • Cardio exercise stimulates dopamine and norepinephrine

  • Healthy nutrition supplies nutrients to heal the ADHD gut-brain connection

  • Adequate sleep optimizes focus, learning, and memory

  • Mindfulness practices build self-awareness and self-regulation skills

  • Nature time has restorative effects on ADHD brains

  • Biofeedback/neurofeedback sharpen cognitive functioning

  • Stress management and social support counteract anxiety and depression

  • Limiting digital overstimulation improves concentration


Integrating ADHD-friendly lifestyle habits with medication leads to maximal growth and renewal.

Signs That Medication Is Working Well


When ADHD medication dosage and type is optimized, you may notice:


  • Improved focus, concentration and task completion

  • Less impulsivity and hyperactivity

  • Increased motivation and organization

  • More control over emotions and reactions

  • Reduced stress and inner restlessness

  • Fewer careless mistakes and forgotten tasks

  • Better ability to initiate activities and plan ahead

  • Higher self-confidence and pursuit of goals


Tuning in closely to changes in daily life functioning provides guidance on how medications are performing. Feedback from family, teachers, coworkers and providers fills in blind spots.


Trusted Psychiatric Care Resources in Philadelphia and the Main Line


Successfully managing ADHD medications requires finding trusted psychiatric providers. Look for these markers of excellence:

  • Specializes in ADHD with extensive diagnostic and medication management experience

  • Takes time explaining options and truly partners in your care

  • Uses rating scales and cognitive testing to objectively evaluate medication effectiveness

  • Considers both medical and holistic treatment approaches

  • Accepts insurance and offers convenient office hours


Exceptional ADHD care can be found through top-notch psychiatric providers, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and therapists working in Renewing Mindsets Philadelphia and Main Line locations.


Make finding an expert ADHD treatment team your number one priority. Renewed focus and functioning await. Reach out to Renewing Mindsets today to schedule an appointment.

Schedule an Appointmet