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Navigating Stimulant vs. Nonstimulant Medications for ADHD Treatment in Philadelphia & The Main Line

Targeted Philadelphia ADHD evaluation and diagnosis for women provides clarity and tailored medication and therapy for real relief.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorders, affecting over 6 million children in America. Characterized by difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness, ADHD frequently continues from childhood into adulthood, causing impairment across major life domains. The good news is ADHD is highly manageable with evidence-based treatment. Medication is a cornerstone of treatment for most individuals with ADHD. The two main medication classes are stimulants and nonstimulants, which have key differences in their mechanisms, side effects, abuse potential and more. Finding the optimal medication requires comprehensive ADHD assessment, diagnosis, and specialized care from providers like Renewing Mindsets serving Philadelphia and the Main Line.

How Stimulants and Nonstimulants Work

Stimulant medications such as Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, and Concerta are usually the first line treatment for ADHD. As the name suggests, these drugs stimulate the central nervous system by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine activity in the brain. This stimulation improves concentration, motivation, focus, and impulse control.

Nonstimulant medications like Strattera, Intuniv, and Wellbutrin work differently to regulate neurotransmitters indirectly through other mechanisms. While slower to take effect, nonstimulants offer a smoother treatment option with less potential for abuse and dependence.

Doctors weigh many factors when selecting ADHD medication, including the individual’s symptoms, coexisting disorders, history, and risk of misuse. While stimulants are prescribed more often, nonstimulants play an important role, especially when stimulant side effects are intolerable or abuse risk is high.

Key Differences Between Stimulant and Nonstimulant Medications


Stimulants: Increase dopamine/norepinephrine

Nonstimulants: Regulate neurotransmitters indirectly

Onset and Duration

Stimulants: Rapid onset, short or long-acting

Nonstimulants: Slower onset, all-day coverage

Side Effects

Stimulants: Decreased appetite, insomnia, headaches

Nonstimulants: Fatigue, irritability, stomach upset

Abuse Potential

Stimulants: Higher risk of abuse/dependence

Nonstimulants: Lower risk of abuse

Approved Ages

Stimulants: Ages 3 and up

Nonstimulants: Ages 6 and up

Delivery Methods

Stimulants: Tablets, capsules, liquids, patches, powders

Nonstimulants: Capsules and tablets

Examples of Medications in Each Category

Stimulant Examples

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana)

  • Amphetamine (Adderall, Vyvanse, Evekeo)

  • Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)

  • Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)

Nonstimulant Examples

  • Atomoxetine (Strattera)

  • Clonidine (Kapvay)

  • Guanfacine (Intuniv)

  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)

The Role of Comprehensive ADHD Assessment

Thorough evaluation and diagnosis should come first when exploring ADHD treatment options like medication. At Renewing Mindsets, we provide comprehensive clinical assessment and testing for ADHD in children, teens, college students, and adults.

Our licensed mental health professionals obtain a detailed history and incorporate multiple rating scales backed by research to reach an accurate ADHD diagnosis. We screen for overlapping conditions like anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, and substance abuse that can mimic ADHD symptoms. Identifying co-occurring issues is vital for creating an optimal treatment plan.

The ADHD assessment includes:

  • Clinical interview on symptoms, history, functioning

  • Validated ADHD rating scales/questionnaires

  • Cognitive testing when warranted

  • Inventory of current life impairment

  • Physical exam and lab tests when needed

Through this rigorous process, we gain the information required to make appropriate ADHD treatment recommendations for each patient.

Beginning ADHD Medication Treatment

For those who decide medication is the right treatment option, our board-certified providers give a comprehensive initial consultation. This appointment covers:

  • Thorough review of evaluation findings and diagnosis

  • Psychoeducation about ADHD as a neurobiological disorder

  • Discussion of treatment choices including stimulant vs. nonstimulant medications

  • Collaborative decision-making around selecting a medication

  • Review of medication benefits, side effects, and risks

  • Written prescription for the chosen ADHD medication

Finding the optimal dosage is crucial when starting ADHD medication. Our team

closely monitor patients at the beginning to carefully adjust the dose for maximum benefit and minimal side effects. We also provide ongoing medication management long-term to evaluate effectiveness, support adherence, and modify treatment as required. Our medication services integrate psychotherapy, coaching, classes, and support groups for the best outcomes.

Why Early Intervention Matters

Treating ADHD early and consistently makes a profound difference across the lifespan. Identifying ADHD in elementary school prevents children from irreversibly falling behind academically and socially. Intervening in middle school or high school helps get students back on track to graduate and pursue higher education. Treating ADHD appropriately during the college years helps students overcome obstacles and successfully complete their degree.

For adults, effective ADHD treatment means being able to excel in careers, sustain healthy relationships, avoid substance misuse, and fully realize their potential. Ongoing medication and therapy provides the support and structure required to actively manage ADHD at each stage of life.

While not completely curable, ADHD is highly treatable with evidence-based care. Our compassionate providers help patients and families understand ADHD as a biological disorder and remove blame or stigma. We empower those we treat with the latest tools and strategies to live full lives with ADHD.

Why Choose Renewing Mindsets for ADHD Treatment?

Renewing Mindsets provides comprehensive ADHD care from initial assessment through ongoing medication management, counseling, and coaching. Our services include:

  • ADHD testing and diagnosis for all ages

  • Psychiatric services and medication management

  • Individual and family therapy

  • ADHD coaching and support groups

  • Cognitive testing and vocational counseling

  • Treatment for co-occurring mood/anxiety disorders

Our experienced medical team offers flexible appointment times, including evenings and weekends, both in-person and via telehealth.

If you suspect you or a loved one may have undiagnosed ADHD, contact Renewing Mindsets today to schedule a consultation. We create customized treatment plans to help every patient succeed and thrive with ADHD. Call (484) 948-5400 or book your appointment online now.

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