ADHD Medication Information
Unfortunately for many children with ADHD, one of the first treatments is stimulant ADHD medication.
The ADHD medications that are currently prescribed in Australia are dexamphetamine and
methylphenidate. Methylphenidate is available as a short-acting preparation (eg. Ritalin), and as a long-
acting or extended release preparation (eg. Ritalin LA or Concerta). Other stimulant medications are
used to treat ADHD but are not available in Australia (eg. Adderall).
Some people get better results from dexamphetamine, while others get better results from
methylphenidate. Currently it is not possible to predict which stimulant will be most effective for a
particular person. In choosing the medication, the doctor has taken into account individual symptoms
and circumstances. If one stimulant medication does not relieve the symptoms, the doctor may suggest
trying the other.
Up until recently, dexamphetamine was the less expensive of the short-acting stimulant medications
due to its listing as a pharmaceutical benefit on the Commonwealth Government’s Pharmaceutical
Benefits Scheme (PBS). In August 2005 short-acting methylphenidate (Ritalin) was also included on
the PBS as a treatment for ADHD and can now be obtained for the same cost as dexamphetamine.
Long-acting methylphenidate, which is not available on the PBS, became available in Australia in 2003.
In Australia, atomoxetine (Strattera) is the only non-stimulant medication approved by the Therapeutic
Goods Administration (Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing) for the treatment of ADHD.
Atomoxetine is quite a different compound to the stimulant drugs and the effects it produces on
chemicals in the brain is different to that of the stimulants. Its use in the treatment of ADHD is relatively
new and doctors are only beginning to gain experience in its use. Antidepressants have been studied
as a treatment for ADHD and have generally been found to be less effective than stimulants.
The ADHD stimulant medications are found to have a short-term effectiveness of up to 80 percent in
reducing the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder in school-age children. For these people, ADHD
medications reduce their hyperactivity and improve their ability to focus, work, and learn. However, there
are downsides and side effects to these medications. Many doctors feel the side effects of ADHD
medications should be carefully weighed against the benefits before prescribing ADHD medications
like Ritalin or Concerta.
ADHD medication as the “Quick Fix”?
Research is clear that stimulant ADHD medications can be helpful, at least in the short term. Parents
and teachers often rush to applaud ADHD medications when the child’s schoolwork and behavior
improve after starting ADHD medications. While the ADHD medications can allow these changes to
take place, the effect wears off when the ADHD medications wear off.
The ADHD medications do not increase knowledge or improve academic skills, though the ADHD
medications can help people pay better attention and complete their work. The ADHD medications only
control the symptoms instead of addressing the causes of ADHD symptoms. ADHD medications are
like glasses, braces or allergy medications. These ADHD medications don’t cure the disorder. They
only temporarily control the symptoms.
A growing number of health professionals, parents and educators believe that ADHD is a disorder, but
they do not agree that a long-term course of medication is the answer. Since children do not outgrow
Attention Deficit Disorder medications merely postpone dealing with the causes. Because of this, many
health professionals believe that children displaying the symptoms of ADHD should not be treated
solely with ADHD medications. they encourage that the child receives other therapies which target a
broad range of problems that children with ADHD suffer including:
Social skill training
Classroom & educational intervention
Training in organisational skills
Behaviour management training (for parents)