ADHD is a neurocognitive disorder which affects up to 9-10% of children and 50% of children with ADHD continue to have the disorder in adulthood. The core symptoms of ADHD include difficulties with carelessness, maintaining focus, organization, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
Highly effective medications are available which can reduce ADHD symptom severity. Unfortunately, like most psychiatric medications, medications used for ADHD do not cure the illness.
Here are two examples to explain what I mean.
When someone has a bacterial infection, they take antibiotics which help kill the bacteria. Once all bacteria are dead, that individual is “cured” from the infection. Unless they get re-infected by another bacterium, they will not have any more difficulties from the illness and will no longer need treatment. This is NOT how ADHD medications work.
On the other hand, someone with type one (childhood onset) diabetes does not have the ability to make insulin. In order to prevent high blood sugars (the core symptom of type one diabetes), they need to take insulin. Taking insulin does not reverse the body’s inability to produce the hormone so the individual needs to take it forever to prevent high blood sugars. Consequently, it does not “cure” the disease. It only treats the symptoms. This is similar to how ADHD medications work.
What does all of this mean?
There are several highly effective medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the symptoms of ADHD. Someone with ADHD who takes one of these medications should expect to notice improvements in concentration, organization, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and making careless errors. Some individuals may even have a complete resolution of their symptoms and these improvements should continue as long as the individual keeps taking the medication. Otherwise, their symptoms will return.
As a result, it is recommended that an individual with ADHD continue to take their medication as long as there are noticing benefits and are not having side effects.
It is important to always discuss with you provider if you are interested in stopping a medication so that they are aware and are able to review the pros and cons of doing so.
Dr. Namdari Behrouz