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ADHD Medications

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Reviewed By: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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Medications are often recommended as a treatment for ADHD.
Approximately two dozen medications are currently available for ADHD. These medicines are often separated into different classes based on how they work. They include:
- Stimulants
- Nonstimulants
- Antidepressants
- and other miscellaneous medications
Most ADHD drugs are believed to work by correcting the levels of certain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, from the spaces where communication between brain cells occurs. Neurotransmitters help brain cells relay messages to each other, and the right amount of neurotransmitters is needed for normal brain function. After neurotransmitters relay their message, they return to their "home" brain cell through a process called "reuptake."
In people with ADHD, there may not be enough of certain types of neurotransmitters, primarily dopamine and norepinephrine. When there is an imbalance of neurotransmitters, the brain cells that use these neurotransmitters cannot communicate as well with each other. ADHD medications work by making one or more of these neurotransmitters more readily available.
For example, stimulants increase the availability of both dopamine and norepinephrine by blocking their reuptake. This means that more of each neurotransmitter is left in between the nerve cells to relay messages, thereby fixing the imbalance.
When the levels of neurotransmitters are corrected, ADHD symptoms often improve.

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