Reporting Side Effects
The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from medicine you are taking. It is run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
There are three types of medication for ADHD:
Methylphenidate comes in a number of different brands and is the most commonly used medication for ADHD. Methylphenidate is known as a psychostimulant or central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. It is not completely clear how it works, but it is thought it stimulates a part of the brain that changes mental and behavioural reactions.
Methylphenidate can be used by teenagers and children with ADHD over the age of six years. Although methylphenidate is not licensed for use in adults, it may be taken under close supervision from your GP and specialist.
Methylphenidate cannot be taken:
Methylphenidate should be used with caution:
Methylphenidate can be taken as either immediate-release tablets (small doses taken two to three times a day), or as modified-release tablets (taken once a day in the morning, and they release the dose throughout the day) as this will cover the whole school day or last into the evening. Modified-release capsules can be opened and sprinkled on food so are suitable for young children who may not be able to swallow tablets.
Methylphenidate can cause side effects, which may include:
There are ways to ease these side effects. For example, loss of appetite may be avoided by taking the medication with a meal or snack. Teenagers and adults should avoid drinking alcohol during treatment because this can make side effects worse.
Dexamfetamine works in the same way as methylphenidate. It is also classed as a psychostimulant or CNS stimulant, and may be particularly effective in controlling hyperactivity.
Dexamfetamine can be used by teenagers and children with ADHD who are over three. Although it is not licensed for use in adults, it may be taken under close supervision from your GP and specialist.
Dexamfetamine cannot be taken:
Dexamfetamine should be used with caution if you or your child has epilepsy.
Dexamfetamine is usually taken as a daily tablet once or twice a day and may have side effects similar to those of methylphenidate.
Atomoxetine works differently from methylphenidate and dexamfetamine.
Atomoxetine is known as a selective noradrenaline uptake inhibitor (it increases the amount of a chemical in the brain called noradrenaline). This chemical passes messages between brain cells, so by increasing the amount the atomoxetine aids concentration and helps control impulses.
Atomoxetine can be used by teenagers and children over six. It is also licensed for use in adults who are continuing treatment after taking the medication as a teenager. It is not licensed for use in adults newly diagnosed with ADHD, but your GP and specialist may prescribe it under their supervision.
Atomoxetine cannot be taken:
Like other medications, the use of atomoxetine must be closely monitored by your GP and specialist.
Some studies have shown a small number of children and young people who take atomoxetine are more likely to think about suicide. If either you or your child begin to feel depressed or suicidal while taking this medication, see your GP to ask about switching to a different medication.
Also, in rare cases, there is evidence that atomoxetine can cause liver damage. Arrange to see your GP regularly if you or your child is taking this medication.
Atomoxetine comes in capsule form you or your child takes once or twice a day. Capsules are long-acting, so your child will not need to take them at school. It may be prescribed as an alternative to methylphenidate or dexamfetamine if these are ineffective or cause adverse effects.
Atomoxetine can cause side effects, which may include:
If you or your child needs medication for ADHD, your GP and specialist will take several factors into account before recommending a treatment.
These will include:
As well as taking medication, different therapies can be useful in treating ADHD in children, teenagers and adults. Therapy is also effective in treating additional problems, such as conduct or anxiety disorders, that may appear with ADHD.
Therapies outlined below can be carried out with the help of a number of healthcare professionals, including:
There are other ways of treating ADHD that some people with the condition find helpful, such as cutting out certain foods and taking supplements. However, there is no medical evidence these methods work, and they should not be attempted without medical advice.
People with ADHD should eat a healthy balanced diet. Do not cut out foods without medical advice.
Some people may notice a link between types of food and worsening ADHD symptoms. For example, sugar and caffeine are often blamed for aggravating hyperactivity, and some people feel they have intolerances to wheat or dairy products that may add to their symptoms.
If this is the case, keep a diary of what you eat and drink and what behaviour this causes. Discuss this with your GP, who may refer you to a dietitian (a healthcare professional who specialises in nutrition).
However, do not change your (or your child's) diet without medical advice.
Some people consider certain supplements, such as omega 3 fatty acid, to be beneficial in people with ADHD. However, there is no medical evidence to support this. If you do wish to try using a supplement, talk to your GP first, as some can react unpredictably with other medication or make it less effective.
Also remember that supplements should not be taken long-term, as they can build up to dangerous levels in your body.
People with ADHD should take regular exercise.
For more information on getting active, and how much activity you and your child should be doing, please visit the Active Scotland website.