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Stimulants vs. Nonstimulants: Understanding ADHD Medication Options in Philadelphia & The Main Line


Our ADHD specialists in Philadelphia with Renewing Mindsets offer compassionate testing and diagnosis, opening doors to effective treatment.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that makes it difficult to focus, regulate behavior, and pay attention. While ADHD often starts in childhood, it frequently persists into adulthood. Fortunately, there are many safe and effective treatment options available. The most common treatments for ADHD are stimulant and nonstimulant medications, which work in different ways to manage symptoms. This article provides an overview of stimulant and nonstimulant ADHD medications and how specialists at Renewing Mindsets provide comprehensive testing, diagnosis, and treatment for ADHD in the Philadelphia and Main Line area.


How Stimulants and Nonstimulants Differ


Stimulant medications like Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, and Concerta are usually the first line of treatment for ADHD. As the name suggests, these drugs stimulate the central nervous system to increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. This effect helps improve focus, concentration, motivation, and impulse control.


Nonstimulant medications like Strattera, Intuniv, and Wellbutrin work differently by regulating neurotransmitters through other mechanisms. While not as fast-acting as stimulants, nonstimulants provide a subtler treatment option with a lower risk of abuse and dependence. They can be ideal for people who experience strong side effects from stimulants or have substance abuse disorders.


When determining the right ADHD medication, psychotherapists consider the individual’s symptoms, coexisting conditions, response to any previous medications tried, and the risk of misuse/addiction. Stimulants tend to be more widely used, but nonstimulants are a good alternative, especially for those concerned about the effects and escalation of stimulant use.


Key Differences Between Stimulant and Nonstimulant ADHD Medications


How they work: Stimulants target dopamine and norepinephrine, while nonstimulants work through different mechanisms, like serotonin inhibition.

Onset: Stimulants act rapidly, while nonstimulants can take days or weeks to reach full effect.

Duration: Stimulants are short-acting or extended-release. Nonstimulants typically last throughout the day.

Side effects: Stimulants commonly cause decreased appetite, headaches, insomnia. Nonstimulants may cause fatigue, stomach upset, irritability.

Abuse potential: Stimulants have a higher abuse and dependence risk. Nonstimulants have a lower risk.

Approved age: Stimulants are approved for ages 3 and up. Nonstimulants are approved for ages 6 and up.

Delivery method: Most stimulants are pills, but some come in liquid, chewable tablets, skin patch, or powder. Nonstimulants come in pill or capsule form.


Examples of Stimulant and Nonstimulant ADHD Medications


Stimulant Examples

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana)

  • Amphetamine-dextroamphetamine (Adderall)

  • Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)

  • Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)


Nonstimulant Examples

  • Atomoxetine (Strattera)

  • Clonidine (Kapvay)

  • Guanfacine (Intuniv)

  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)


Optimizing ADHD Treatment Through Comprehensive Testing and Medication Management


Getting an accurate ADHD evaluation and diagnosis is the first step in accessing effective treatment. At Renewing Mindsets in the Philadelphia and Main Line area, we provide comprehensive ADHD assessments, diagnoses, and medication management support for children, teens, and adults.


Our ADHD specialists take the time to thoroughly evaluate each patient’s symptoms, history, sleep patterns, learning challenges and more. We use evidence-based ADHD rating scales backed by research to quantify the severity of symptoms. Our clinicians also screen for co-occurring conditions like anxiety, depression, and substance use that may mimic or overlap with ADHD.


After confirming an ADHD diagnosis, our team develops an individualized treatment plan suited to each patient’s needs. For those considering medication, we offer an initial psychiatric evaluation, along with ongoing medication management and monitoring. We take care to properly adjust dosages and optimize the timing of stimulant or nonstimulant medications. Patients work closely with their psychotherapists and therapist to track progress and make changes when needed.


We also provide ADHD coaching and behavioral therapy to help patients build essential skills for school, work, and relationships. Our comprehensive, integrated approach combines medication, therapy, education, and lifestyle changes for the best possible treatment outcomes.


The Difference Early and Effective Treatment Can Make


When untreated, ADHD takes a toll across all areas of life - causing relationship problems, academic underachievement, car accidents, difficulty managing money, substance abuse, and lower overall health. The earlier ADHD treatment begins, the more opportunity someone has to get on track developmentally and avoid these adverse outcomes.


Starting medication and therapy in the elementary school years prevents children from falling irretrievably behind in school. Intervening in middle school and high school helps students improve academic performance and self-esteem when ADHD has already disrupted learning. Identifying and treating ADHD properly in college helps students overcome obstacles completing their degree.


For adults, effective ADHD treatment means being able to hold down a job long-term, preserve marriages and friendships, avoid substance misuse, and fully realize one’s potential. Ongoing medication and therapy provides the support needed to actively manage ADHD at each stage of life.


While ADHD cannot be cured, it is highly treatable. Our providers help patients understand the nature of ADHD as a neurobiological disorder and remove self-blame or stigma. We empower those we treat with the tools and strategies to thrive with ADHD.


Renewing Mindsets Provides Comprehensive ADHD Care in Philadelphia and the Main Line


Managing ADHD requires regular follow-up and monitoring, a personalized treatment plan, and a supportive team. The psychiatric providers, therapists, and coaches at Renewing Mindsets work as a coordinated team to ensure each patient gets the care they need when they need it.


We provide:


  • Comprehensive ADHD and mental health evaluations

  • Full psychiatric services including medication management

  • Individual and family psychotherapy

  • Cognitive testing and vocational counseling

  • Treatment for co-occurring mood and anxiety disorders


Our compassionate, experienced staff offers flexible appointment times in-person or via telehealth to accommodate busy schedules.


If you or a loved one are showing signs of ADHD, contact Renewing Mindsets today to schedule a consultation. Our caring doctors and therapists will complete a thorough assessment and recommend individualized, evidence-based treatment to help you succeed and thrive with ADHD. Call (484) 948-5400 or book an appointment online now.

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