ADD — Treatment Through Medication

In this third of a series of articles on ADD we’re going to focus on treatments for ADD besides simple nutrition.

The most common form of treatment for ADD is through medication.

The underlying theory on ADD is that it is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Through certain medications we can correct that imbalance and help a person with ADD to live a normal and productive life.

PET scans of patients with ADD who are taking medication for their condition show that there is significant improvement in many cases.

Medication that is given to treat ADD is to stimulate the production of two neurotransmitters known as dopamine and norephinephrine. These neurotransmitters are needed to carry a nerve impulse along a neuropathway. When one of these transmitters is under supplied the message is stopped short of it’s intended destination. When this happens, whatever function that circuit is assigned to doesn’t work properly.

Your brain circuits are like a computer circuit. They are either on or off. When a circuit is on it makes something happen, like helping a child concentrate on a math problem or read a passage from a novel. When other circuits are on they prevent something from happening. For instance, some circuits prevent a child from becoming over emotional about an event or situation. If this circuit is supposed to be on but isn’t because the transmitter didn’t work then the child ends up getting upset where a child without ADD would have remained calm.

Medicines that treat ADD are not sedatives or tranquilizers. They don’t slow down the nervous system. What they do is stimulate various areas of the brain to be more active, actually the reverse of a sedative. By being more active, concentration and attention are improved. This medication helps circuits stay on when they’re supposed to be on.

The most common medication for ADD is Ritalin, which is a psychostimulant. The drug appears to work very well in treating ADD. However, it has gotten a lot of bad press even though it is relatively safe and very effective. Should Ritalin not work other drugs may be used like antidepressants and beta blockers. These have both been shown to be very effective for certain patients.

Other drugs that have been used to treat ADD are Dexedrine, Desoxyn, Adderall, and Cylert, which are all stimulant drugs like Ritalin. The most common antidepressants are Desiprimine, Anafranil, Elavil, Tofranil, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. Then there are neuroleptics which were developed to treat serious mental disorders like psychosis and schizophrenia. In patients with severe ADD symptoms these have been very effective treatments. The most common of these drugs is Haldol and Mellaril. However the AMA cautions that these drugs should only be used in the most severe cases of ADD. Then you have mood stabilizers which are lithium based drugs that are very effective in certain cases in calming a child down.

The number of drugs to treat ADD is numerous and growing everyday. With proper diagnosis and testing it is relatively easy to find the right drug for treating the disorder in each case.

In the next article we’ll discuss other treatments for ADD.