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Treatment

How is ADHD treated?

Treating ADHD may require a few different approaches. By working closely with your doctor, you can help plan a treatment program for yourself/your child.

Depending on your age,
treatment programs may include:

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Behavioural therapy

Behavioural therapy can provide a better understanding of ADHD and how it affects your/your child’s daily life. Therapists help ADHD patients learn how to replace behaviours that don’t work or cause problems, and help develop strategies that can make it easier to finish tasks and get more organized, efficient, and productive. Behavioural therapy can also include parent training to help adults care for children with ADHD.

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Parent training

Adults caring for children with ADHD are shown how to deal with ADHD behaviours. This includes tips on establishing daily routines for the child, as well as how to use both reward systems and proactive disciplinary methods.

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Social skills training

ADHD patients can learn ways to help them relate to other people and improve their interaction with others. In a typical social skills training group, the therapist targets specific social behaviours, provides verbal instructions and demonstrations of the target behaviour, and coaches the participants to role-play the target behaviours with one another.

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Medication

Medication may be used as part of a total treatment program for ADHD. It may help patients focus and ignore distractions, and improve concentration and impulse control. Although medication does not cure ADHD, it can help manage ADHD symptoms. Medications can come in different forms and can work for different amounts of time. Some ADHD medications are short-acting and work for shorter time periods during the day, while others are long-acting, meaning they can last during the day and into the evening.

ADHD pharmacological treatments in Canada:

Short-acting
Ritalin®*
  • Comes in tablets to be taken by mouth
  • Available in 2 tablet strengths
Methylphenidate short-acting tablet (generic)
  • Comes in tablets to be taken by mouth
  • Available in 3 tablet strengths
Long-acting
Biphentin®
  • Capsules must be swallowed whole with water or other liquids and never crushed or chewed
  • If necessary, the capsule contents may be sprinkled on these soft foods: apple sauce, ice cream or yogurt, but the beads must not be chewed or crushed
  • Available in 8 capsule strengths
Concerta®*
  • Do not chew, crush, or divide the tablets. Swallow Concerta® tablets whole with water or other liquids, such as milk or juices
  • Available in 4 tablet strengths
Ritalin® SR*
  • Tablets must be swallowed whole and never crushed or chewed
  • Available in 1 tablet strength
Methylphenidate long-acting 20 mg tablet (generic)
  • Tablets must be swallowed whole and never crushed or chewed
  • Available in 1 tablet strength
Short-acting
Dexedrine®*
  • Available in 1 tablet strength
Dexedrine® Spansule*
  • Available in 2 capsule strengths
Long-acting
Adderall XR®*
  • Capsule contents can be swallowed whole with water or milk
  • Capsules may be opened and all the beads inside sprinkled on applesauce and taken immediately; do not store for later use
  • Available in 6 capsule strengths
Vyvanse®
  • Capsule may be swallowed whole with water
  • Capsules may be opened and the entire contents mixed with yogurt, water or orange juice; any compacted powder should be completely broken apart with a spoon
  • The entire yogurt or all water or orange juice must be consumed immediately and not stored for future use
  • Available in 7 capsule strengths
Long-acting
Strattera®*
  • Capsules must be swallowed whole
  • Available in 7 capsule strengths
Long-acting
Intuniv XR®
  • Tablet must be swallowed whole with a small amount of liquid
  • Tablet should not be crushed, chewed, broken or divided prior to swallowing
  • Available in 4 tablet strengths

*Generic option available.
Adapted from respective Product Monographs.

As with all medication, ADHD medication is associated with some side effects.

Potential side effects of ADHD stimulant medication include:
  • Appetite suppression
  • Decrease in weight
  • Initial insomnia
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Rebound irritability
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Uncovering tics
  • Blood pressure and heart rate increase
  • Constipation/diarrhea
  • Minor sexual dysfunction
  • Dysphoria
  • Skin reactions
Potential side effects of non-stimulant ADHD medication include:
  • Appetite suppression
  • Decrease in weight
  • Initial insomnia
  • Somnolence
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Blood pressure and heart rate increase
  • Blood pressure and heart rate decrease
  • Constipation/diarrhea
  • Minor sexual dysfunction
  • Dysphoria
  • Skin reactions
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Education

Programs and information for patients and their families can help them learn about, and better understand, ADHD. Tutoring and special education programs are available, such as the community program SNAP®. Check out the list of Additional Resources for a list of websites that can offer more information on ADHD.

Remember! ADHD is an ongoing condition and a long-term plan
to deal with ADHD is usually needed. If your doctor has prescribed
medication for your ADHD, be sure to take it as directed.
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