Recent Breakthroughs in Treating Adult ADHD

By

Erin Azuse

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People with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) generally suffer from problems including lack of focus, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. These issues often arise during childhood, but for around 60 percent of those affected, the condition persists through adulthood.

However, proper diagnosis and treatment of adult ADHD still remains a challenge, so researchers continue to strive to learn more about the disorder and how to best manage it.

Adult ADHD is real, but it may not present like childhood ADHD.

Treating adult ADHD means recognizing it in the first place, so understanding the way it manifests itself in adults has been a crucial breakthrough. Rather than the hyperactivity often seen in children, those with adult ADHD often have problems with organization, time management, or seem forgetful. They may face struggles with personal relationships or have difficulty at work. They may experience feelings of restlessness and tension.

Additionally, almost two-thirds of adults with ADHD have other co-existing conditions. This creates additional complexities with diagnosing and treating ADHD. Some common ones include:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Substance abuse

Identifying the nuances of adult ADHD will allow doctors to make the correct diagnosis.

New ADHD medications are coming down the pipeline.

ADHD is often successfully treated with medication. There are two main groups of medication—stimulants and non-stimulants. Stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall, are the most commonly used. They work by increasing levels of certain chemicals in the brain. Non-stimulants include atomoxetine (Strattera) and some anti-depressants like buproprion (Wellbutrin).  They may be used when stimulants don’t work or can’t be taken due to side effects or a history of substance abuse.

Though there are many ADHD medications already on the market, research remains underway to develop new ones that may work even better or work in a different way.  Examples of newer ADHD medications include:

  • Mydayis (amphetamine mixed salts): Some adults require a “booster” dose of a stimulant later in the day to keep a steady dose of medication in their system. Mydayis, however, can be given as a once-daily treatment, lasting up to 16 hours and eliminating the need for a second dose.

  • Adzenys XR-ODT (amphetamine):  This stimulant dissolves in the mouth, so it provides a different option for adults who have difficulty swallowing pills.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be an effective ADHD treatment.

Many experts believe the most effective treatment for ADHD utilizes both medication and therapy. Recently, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) programs have been developed specifically to treat ADHD, and studies confirm its effectiveness. CBT aims to change individuals’ thoughts and behaviors in order to achieve their goals in life.

For example, many adults who suffer from ADHD have difficulty with what is known as executive function skills. This means they struggle with planning, organizing, and completing tasks in their daily life. CBT can be used to teach specific strategies to improve upon these skills- from using a planner, to learning how to prioritize, to dismissing negative thoughts that arise. CBT doesn’t eliminate the symptoms of ADHD, but it provides methods to work through the problems associated with it. CBT can also be used to help treat co-existing disorders, like anxiety and depression.

If you are an adult with ADHD or suspect that you might have it, talk to your doctor. With proper treatment, a diagnosis of ADHD doesn’t have to interfere with your ability to live a happy and successful life.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 31, 2017

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Medical References

  1. Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adult-adhd/home/ovc-20198864
  2. Adult ADHD. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/adult-adhd
  3. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml
  4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). http://www.chadd.org/Understanding-ADHD/For-Adults/Treatment/Cognitive-Behavioral-Therapy.aspx
  5. Medication Management. Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). http://www.chadd.org/Understanding-ADHD/For-Adults/Treatment/Medication-Management.aspx

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