What are the treatment options for adults who have ADHD?

Answers from Cosima Swintak, M.D.

Treatment for adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) typically involves medication, psychological counseling or both.

Stimulants (psychostimulants) are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD, but other drugs may be prescribed.

  • Stimulants appear to boost and balance levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Examples include methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate, Ritalin, others), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), dextroamphetamine-amphetamine (Adderall) and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse). These ADHD medications help treat the signs and symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity.
  • Other medications used to treat ADHD include atomoxetine (Strattera) and antidepressants such as bupropion (Wellbutrin). Atomoxetine and antidepressants work slower than stimulants do and it may take several weeks before they take full effect. These may be good options if you can't take stimulants because of health problems or if stimulants cause severe side effects.

The right medication and the best dose vary among individuals, so it may take some time to find what works for you. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of medications. And keep your doctor informed of any side effects you have.

Counseling for adult ADHD can be beneficial and generally includes psychological counseling (psychotherapy) and education about the disorder. Psychotherapy may help you:

  • Improve your time management and organizational skills
  • Learn how to reduce your impulsive behavior
  • Develop better problem-solving skills
  • Cope with past academic and social failures
  • Improve your self-esteem
  • Learn ways to improve relationships with your family, co-workers and friends

Often, medication combined with psychological counseling works best.


Cosima Swintak, M.D.

Apr. 12, 2014 See more Expert Answers