How is ADHD treated?

Treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) begins with seeking regular medical care, which allows a health care professional the opportunity to screen for and evaluate potential symptoms of ADHD. Properly diagnosed and treated, ADHD can be managed so that it has minimal impact on your life or your child’s life. Treatment often involves a combination of approaches, such as medications, behavioral therapy, lifestyle/environmental changes, and education of parents and teachers. Behavioral interventions are preferred initially to medication as the initial intervention for preschool children with ADHD and supplement medication for school-aged children and adolescents.

Medications commonly used to treat ADHD

Although it may seem counterintuitive, stimulants are commonly used to treat ADHD. Instead of increasing energy and activity levels, they seem to have a calming effect and help to improve concentration and focus. Nonstimulants may also be used to treat ADHD, and they may have less abuse potential.

  • Amphetamine (Adderall)
  • Atomoxetine (Strattera, a nonstimulant)
  • Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, Dextrostat)
  • Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse)
  • Methamphetamine hydrochloride (Desoxyn)
  • Methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate, Methylin, Ritalin)

What you can do to improve ADHD

In addition to medications and behavioral therapy, you can help manage your child’s ADHD symptoms by:

  • Attending parental skills education classes
  • Developing a clear system of rewards and punishments
  • Giving praise when your child is acting appropriately
  • Having your child receive social skills training
  • Joining a support group
  • Organizing your child’s environment
  • Removing distractions
  • Setting and sticking to a schedule
  • Setting clear rules
  • Sharing relaxing activities with your child
  • Using “time-outs” to remove your child from situations when behavior is inappropriate
  • Working with your child’s school to evaluate whether he or she qualifies for special education services

What are the potential complications of ADHD?

Complications of untreated or poorly controlled attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be serious. You can help minimize your child’s risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you and your child. Complications of ADHD include:

  • Academic problems or failure
  • Co-occurrence of ADHD with behavioral problems
  • Difficulties holding a job
  • Drug and alcohol use and abuse
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Law violations and legal troubles
  • Learning disability
  • Ongoing symptoms
  • Problems developing and maintaining relationships with peers


  1. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH.
  2. What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? National Institute of Mental Health.
  3. Leslie LK, Guevara JP. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In: American Academy of Pediatrics Textbook of Pediatric Care, McInerny TK. (Ed), American Academy of Pediatrics, Elk Grove Village, IL 2009. p.1201.
  4. Brown RT, Amler RW, Freeman WS, et al. Treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: overview of the evidence. Pediatrics 2005; 115:e749.


What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, one of the most commonly diagnosed behavioral problems in childhood and adolescence. Children with ADHD have more trouble staying focused, paying attention, and controlling their behavior and impulses than other children of the same age. ADHD seems to run in some families and can continue into adulthood. An estimated 3% to 5% of school-age... Read more about adhdintroduction


What are the symptoms of ADHD?

Children who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have symptoms mostly related to inattention, mostly related to hyperactivity and impulsivity, or a combination of symptoms related to all three. These symptoms may be present in healthy children but are more prominent in children with ADHD. In those cases, the symptoms are severe enough to cause problems at school, home or wo... Read more about adhdsymptoms


What causes ADHD?

The exact cause of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not known, but genetics does seem to play a role, as ADHD does tend to run in families. A gene has been identified that seems to affect the amount of tissue formed in an area of the brain that is associated with attention; however, the area becomes more normal with time. ADHD symptoms tend to improve as the brain tissue norma... Read more about adhdcauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mental Health and Behavior