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Stimulants vs. Nonstimulants for ADHD Treatment: Finding the Right Medication, Philadelphia ADHD Testing & Treatment


Specialized ADHD testing diagnoses this condition in women and girls with precision, leading to custom Philadelphia treatment.


Medication can be a crucial component of effective ADHD treatment plans. The most common medications prescribed for ADHD fall into two categories - stimulants and non-stimulants. Stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin tend to be fast-acting and highly effective. Non-stimulants including Strattera, Intuniv, and Wellbutrin have a slower onset but can also improve symptoms. Finding the right medication comes down to carefully evaluating the pros and cons of each option.


How Stimulants Can Improve ADHD Symptoms


Stimulant medications like methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) and amphetamines (Adderall, Vyvanse) are the first line treatment for many with ADHD. They work by increasing the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. This stimulates the prefrontal cortex which governs executive functions like attention span, focus, planning, and impulse control.


The benefits of stimulant medication include:

  • Improves focus and concentration

  • Increases motivation and task initiation

  • Lessens impulsivity and hyperactivity

  • Enhances working memory

  • Boosts organization and time management

  • Minimizes distractibility

  • Improves mood through dopamine

  • Works quickly, often within 30-60 minutes


Around 70% of people with ADHD find stimulants effective. They can greatly improve school, work and relationship functioning. However, stimulants may cause appetite loss, insomnia, headaches, irritability, and anxiety. They have a high risk for abuse and addiction so require close monitoring and drug screening. Many experts recommend taking periodic “medication holidays”.


How Non-Stimulants Can Treat ADHD Symptoms


Non-stimulant medications for ADHD include Strattera, Intuniv, Wellbutrin, Clonidine, and Tofranil. These alternatives are slower acting than stimulants but longer lasting. They are often prescribed in the following cases:


  • Need medication with less abuse potential

  • Experience intolerable stimulant side effects

  • Have co-occurring anxiety, tics, substance abuse issues

  • Want medication effective 24/7

  • Prefer avoiding controlled substances


Here’s a look at how the main non-stimulant options work:


  • Strattera - Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, boosts availability of norepinephrine and dopamine. Takes 4-6 weeks to fully kick in.

  • Intuniv - Activates alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, which increases attention and reduces impulsivity, hyperactivity, and emotional reactivity. Effects last 24 hours.

  • Wellbutrin - Increases dopamine indirectly by blocking reuptake. Also treats co-occurring depression and anxiety.

  • Clonidine - Lowers blood pressure while improving ADHD symptoms by stimulating alpha-2 adrenergic receptors. Also helps with sleep.


Non-stimulants may cause drowsiness, dizziness, irritability, nausea or fatigue. While not as fast-acting or effective as stimulants for most, they provide a safer, steadier option for many.


The First Steps: ADHD Diagnosis and Medication Evaluation in Philadelphia/Main Line with Renewing Mindsets


Finding the optimal ADHD medication starts with a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis from a specialist. Here are the key first steps when starting ADHD drug treatment:


  • Diagnostic testing - A clinical assessment confirms an ADHD diagnosis, provides baseline impairment data, and screens for co-occurring issues that could impact medication options.

  • Prescription - Your psychotherapist may write an initial prescription for a stimulant or non-stimulant based on your symptom profile, medical history and concerns.

  • Trial period - It can take 4-8 weeks of consistently taking a medication to evaluate its effectiveness. Keep notes on how symptoms improve along with any side effects.

  • Follow up and adjust - Schedule a follow up visit to review how the medication is working and discuss adjusting the dose, timing or trying a different drug if needed.

  • Track progress - Continue to monitor progress and side effects using rating scales, journals and regular provider follow ups. Expect to spend months getting medications fine-tuned.

  • Add therapy - Medication works best combined with cognitive behavioral therapy, skills training, lifestyle changes and support groups.


Finding optimal ADHD medication and dosage requires patience but significantly improves functioning when achieved. Be your own best advocate in working closely with providers to discover what works best.


Lifestyle Changes That Enhance ADHD Medication Effectiveness


Although medication provides the cornerstone of treatment for most people with ADHD, certain lifestyle factors and holistic practices can enhance the benefits:


Nutrition - A whole foods diet low in processed carbs, adequate protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, zinc, iron, magnesium and omega-3’s supports ADHD brain health and reduces inflammation.


Exercise - Cardio exercise elevates dopamine, norepinephrine and endorphins while reducing stress. Aim for at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity.


Sleep hygiene - Keeping a consistent bedtime routine and getting at least 8 hours a night optimizes focus and concentration.


Stress management - Yoga, meditation, counseling and social support counteracts anxiety and emotional reactivity that exacerbate ADHD impairment.


Limit screen time - Cutting back on excessive digital stimulation minimizes distractibility and hyperfocusing. Take tech breaks.


Biofeedback/Neurofeedback - These brain training modalities can strengthen impulse control and sharpen focus.


Nature time - Spending time outdoors has calming effects that support executive functioning.


Combining ADHD-friendly lifestyle habits with medication can maximize constructive behaviors while minimizing unhealthy coping mechanisms like addictions or risky impulses.


Finding the Right Psychiatric Providers in Philadelphia and the Main Line with Renewing Mindsets


Navigating ADHD medication management can be complex, so finding the right practitioner is key:

  • Board certified specialists- Look for one specializing in ADHD who stays current on the latest treatment research and best practices.

  • Developmental pediatricians - Great for diagnosing and treating kids. They take a holistic approach focusing on strengths.

  • Psychiatric nurse practitioners - Often more accessible and affordable. Make sure they have expertise in ADHD care.

  • Primary care doctors - Can prescribe ADHD meds but less likely to provide comprehensive medication management.

  • Therapists/Coaches - Provide adjunctive counseling and skills training though can’t prescribe medications.


Research provider credentials, experience and billing policies. Read online reviews. Schedule consultations to find a good fit. ADHD medication success requires a collaborative partnership with providers.


The Road to Renewed Functioning


Adjusting to ADHD medication takes time. Work closely with your treatment team while tracking progress. Lifestyle adjustments enhance effectiveness. When medication works optimally both children and adults gain:


  • Sharper focus and concentration

  • Increased motivation and task completion

  • Less impulsivity and better emotional regulation

  • Reduced hyperactivity and restlessness

  • Stronger organization, planning and time management

  • More positive self-image and confidence

  • Improved academic and career performance

  • Stronger social connections and relationship harmony


Finally fully tapping into your potential through expert ADHD care with Renewing Mindsets renews hope and purpose. The path to success starts with finding the right care.

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