This is part one of a three part series on the ADHD medications and their role in bringing order to the lives of people with Attention Deficit Dis - Order
I have decided to write less about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and more about Attention Deficit Order. Understanding the factors that bring about Attention Deficit Order for people with ADHD and how ADHD medicines help may begin with an understanding of the brain processes that are disordered in ADHD.
By understanding these brain factors we can better see how ADD treatments and medications help the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
The main symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, inattentive type are poor regulation of attention and poor emotional control. The main symptoms for people with the Hyperactive/Impulsive and Combined type of ADHD are poor impulse control and poor emotional control.
The Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC) is a part of the brain that is under active in people with ADHD and it is also the part of the brain that regulates emotions, attention and behavior. One effective way to bring order to Attention Deficit is to alter the PFC so that it is more active.
The ‘gas’ or engine of the PFC, what drives its actions, are neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Changes in the levels and interactions of norepinephrine and dopamine in the PFC affect our attention, our emotions and our behavior.
We can bring about Attention deficit Order by improving neurotransmitter action in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. The medications that are used for the treatment of ADHD work on the PFC by changing the available levels or the efficiency with which the PFC uses these neurotransmitters.
Stimulant medications are most often used to treat all forms of ADHD. Unfortunately up to 50% of people with ADHD (perhaps even more people with Inattentive ADHD and Sluggish Cognitive Tempo) will either not respond to stimulant therapy or will not be able to take the stimulants because of side effects, rebound effects or Attention Deficit Co-existing disorders such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse problems, sleep problems or Tic disorders.
Two other types of medications are available for people with ADHD who cannot take the stimulants or for people whose symptoms are not fully controlled with stimulants alone. These medications include Atomoxetine (Straterra) and extended release Guanfacine and Clonidine (Intuniv and Tenex).
These other medicines are used both as substitutes for the stimulants and in combination with the stimulants when stimulant therapy alone does not control ADHD symptoms.
All these medicine improve attention, impulse control and emotional control but how they behave on each individual depends of many factors including:
- Genetic factors
- Metabolism Factors
- Co-existing condition
- Individual Effects and Side Effects
Each of the types of medications used to treat ADHD has advantages and disadvantages. The side effect profile of each is different and how effective each is in controlling symptoms is also different.
In part two of this Attention Deficit Order and Medication series we will begin to discuss the individual medicines used to treat ADHD and their advantages, strengths, disadvantages and weaknesses.