ADHD Treatment

ADHD treatment typically involves medication, psychological counseling, education and behavior training. Most doctors prescribe a combination of treatments. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting with behavior training before medications in children younger than six.

Last Modified: September 5, 2023
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What Are ADHD Treatments?

Medical providers prescribe a combination of ADHD treatments — including education and training programs, medications and behavior therapy — to manage the symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. There is no cure for ADHD, but it’s highly treatable with the right plan.

For most people with ADHD, medication is considered the first line of treatment. However, for children younger than 6 years of age, experts recommend behavior management before starting medication.

ADHD Medication

ADHD medications include stimulants, nonstimulants and antidepressants. Stimulants are the most widely used drugs for ADHD. These include methylphenidate, Adderall and Ritalin. Stimulants are the most effective medications for ADHD, and they may also help with home relationships and task completion. These drugs, however, have a small potential for abuse and addiction.

About 70% to 80% of children and about 70% of adults with ADHD see reduced fidgeting, interrupting and other hyperactive symptoms with medication.

Nonstimulants are not as effective as stimulants for ADHD. These are second- and third-line medications for ADHD. Nonstimulants include Strattera (atomoxetine), Quelbree (viloxazine) and guanfacine, sold under the brand names Intuniv and Tenex. People using these medications need to monitor their blood pressure because Strattera and Quelbree can increase it, while guanfacine lowers it.

Doctors may also prescribe antidepressants to treat ADHD, especially if a person with ADHD also has depression. Common antidepressant medications for ADHD include Wellbutrin (bupropion), Effexor (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine).


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Behavioral Therapy for ADHD

Behavioral therapy for ADHD can help improve self-esteem, self-control and behavior in children and adults with ADHD. Some people use behavioral therapy to manage their ADHD symptoms without medication.

This type of therapy can help replace negative behaviors with positive ones and teaches strategies to improve organization, impulse control and focus. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, addresses the thoughts and behavior patterns that make it difficult to be focused, motivated or productive with ADHD.

Other types of ADHD therapy include family and marital therapy, social skills training and psychotherapy. People with ADHD work on developing time management, organizational, anger management and problem-solving skills.

Education and Training Programs

Parent behavior therapy is a program for parents of children with ADHD. It teaches parents strategies and skills to help their child cope with ADHD symptoms at school or home.

Training programs for adults and adolescents teach people with ADHD the skills to manage their symptoms. For example, brain training uses repetitive exercises to manage ADHD through games on phone apps and computers and mental exercises such as crossword puzzles.

ADHD Treatment in Adults vs. Children

ADHD treatment for adults and children is similar, and doctors often prescribe medications and mental health therapy. But there are slight differences depending on the person’s age.

Children usually start with behavioral therapy first, especially if they are younger than 6 years of age. If symptoms persist, the psychiatrist may prescribe medication in combination with behavior therapy.

Studies show that a majority of children with ADHD will continue to have the disorder as adults.

Stimulant medications are slightly more effective in children than in adults. Parents undergo training to help teach their children how to cope with symptoms.

Medication is the first line of treatment for adults with ADHD. But treatment often includes therapy as well, typically cognitive behavioral therapy.


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Lifestyle Changes and Other Remedies for ADHD

Lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise and other remedies that include meditation can help manage ADHD symptoms. However, they aren’t a replacement for medication or therapy.

Fruits and vegetables may help reduce inattention in children, according to a 2022 study in Nutritional Neuroscience. Vitamins and supplements such as omega-3s may also help manage ADHD symptoms.

Recent studies suggest that micronutrient supplements may improve ADHD symptoms. Research also demonstrates the benefits of mindfulness, meditation, sleep, exercise and music therapy for symptoms of ADHD. Meditation, for example, may improve focus, executive function and emotional regulation.

What to Avoid if You Have ADHD

Some studies have found that diets high in refined sugar and carbohydrates may worsen ADHD symptoms, particularly in children. A 2019 study published in Journal of Affective Disorders found that diets high in refined sugar and saturated fat increased the risk of ADHD.

Caffeine may interact with some ADHD medications and should be avoided. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy and exercising can help with management of ADHD.

Can ADHD Be Cured?

The cause of ADHD is still the subject of considerable research and it cannot be cured. But the right treatment can help people manage symptoms.

An early ADHD diagnosis can help control symptoms and provide coping skills and strategies to prevent negative consequences of ADHD. A combination of education, therapy and medication can help many people with ADHD live more productive and happier lives.

Managing Your ADHD

One of the first steps in managing ADHD is to make sure you adhere to your medication and therapy schedule. Take medication as directed, and keep your doctor updated on your progress or your child’s progress.

Keep track of how certain foods or activities make you feel. Do they worsen symptoms or make them better? Make sure you eat a healthy diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains.

Maintaining a routine and staying organized can help you remain on task. Learn and use strategies for social interaction and productivity in work or school. Having a good support system from friends, family and your therapist can help you cope with challenging symptoms.


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Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.