Health & Fitness

How Can I Tell If the ADHD Medication is Working?” Treatment Troubleshooting Guide

“How can I tell if the ADHD medication is working?”

It’s a normal and sensible issue, particularly for those who are newly identified with the condition of attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD also known as ADD). Assessing whether a drug is performing in the way it ought to, or if it’s the right medicine in the first place, requires constant self-assessment and constant dialogue with your physician about symptom control or the lack of it. Also, it requires patience as your doctor is able to adjust or change medications prior to choosing the most appropriate combination for you.

How to Tell If Your ADHD Medication is Working: Targets and Adjustments

The following two questions can assist you and your physician determine if your current ADHD dosage or medication is appropriate and effective

1. What are you hoping to get from ADHD treatment?

Every medication should be able to reduce ADHD symptoms at the most recommended dose. To be sure that the medication is achieving this first, you must consult with your physician to develop five or four target symptoms that can be measured prior to beginning the medication.

Select symptoms for which you already have been proven to respond effectively to treatment. They can include (but not only):


Inability to start on boring projects

Unrest, fidgeting

Lability to Mood

Overreactions to emotional stress

Instinctiveness, acting or speaking in a way that is not thought-provoking

Outbursts, flashes of temper and outbursts

Insufficient reading speed, comprehension and retention

It is difficult to stay with boring tasks to earn a profit.

Dispersed, lost things

ADHD signs that can be thought to not be affected significantly by medication are:


Time & Sense


Argumentativeness Disobeying rules

[Click to Download Our Free ADHD Medication & Symptom Tracking Log]

2. Are you experiencing an improvement in your ADHD symptoms?

Your physician will likely begin your treatment with a stimulant – the initial treatment option for ADHD with a small dosage, then increase it regularly with the smallest amounts. For the majority of patients, stimulant drugs are fully effective the very first time they are taken once they are in the brain. Patients will experience all of the benefits as well as every side effect of the medication and dosage as soon as the first day.

This means that teens and adults can alter their dosage each day, if they wish to. Children are, however, lacking self-awareness and do not have the vocabulary to express the symptoms they experience. They require more time at each dose level to be able to determine the effect on this ADHD medication. Children of elementary age should consult their physician about a dose change not more than every 5-7 days to ensure that the views of both parents and an observer (like an educator at school) are incorporated into the decision to increase or decrease the dosage.

The doctor can continue to increase dosages of medication when the patient experiences noticeable improvement in all their desired symptoms, and has only minor adverse side consequences. If increasing the dosage does not produce any further improvement or improvement, then the prior lower dose will be the patients “sweet spot” dose. It’s the dose that offers the highest level of benefit without causing serious unwanted side negative effects. However, how do you know whether your health is improving?

How to Tell If Your ADHD Medication is Working: Scales and Tests

On a Scale of 1 to 10…

Without thinking too much about it consider putting you’re currently taking ADHD medication using the scale of 1-10 with one being terrible with no negative side effects – with 10 being the most effective you could imagine a drug ever functioning.

A lot of doctors ask a version of this question to patients. Patients need other self-appraisals to determine if the medication is working to alleviate symptoms. In general the goal is to get scores between 8-10. Nine is a great response to medications. The minimum acceptable score is seven.

ADHD stimulant medicines aren’t insignificant – they are actually some among the best medicines across all fields of medicine. Many doctors have discovered that those who have at least a 6 consequently, will do better on a different drug or with a different dosage. Therefore, if you think you’ve fine-tuned this specific medication, but don’t see a significant level of improvement, keep trying to consult with your doctor to determine the appropriate dosage and medication for your needs.

Standardized Medication Scales

There is one scale that has been tested to track the progress of medications response trials – The Conner Global Index Scale, developed for children from between 3 and 17. The scale is filled out by a teacher or the parent, and requires ratings in a variety of areas such as restless-impulsive behavior and emotional ability. This scale will be administered prior the time of taking medication in order to establish an appropriate baseline to compare it against when the child is taking medication.

[How Does ADHD Medication Work? Your First Questions Answered.]

Performance Testing

Some physicians test for improvement in symptom severity through computerized continuous testing (for instance the TOVA or the Conner’s Quadrant etc.). This is a simple test in time of two main areas of impairment resulting from any reason) alertness, vigilance, disorientation, and) the ability to control impulses. Like standardized scales, tests must be initiated before treatment in order to establish an baseline from which future tests with different dosages of medications can be assessed. It costs about $100 for each test. However, it is important to note that certain individuals who hyperfocus may attain excellent as well as “normal” scores on these tests, whether they are taking or not. These tests aren’t very beneficial or informative.

Whichever method you choose to use the doctor will try to find the most effective dosage by increasing the dosage until it doesn’t result in any further improvement (or until symptoms become worse and adverse effects are evident) The previous dose was, therefore, the most effective to attain the highest performance.

How to Tell If ADHD Medication is Working: Treatment Troubleshooting

Some people are not able to respond well stimulant drugs. In fact, approximately 15 percent of those having tried two the commonly prescribed stimulant class medicines (methylphenidate as well amphetamine) or do not experience any benefits or are unable to tolerate the adverse side effects even at the most minimal dosages.

If the signs are all there to indicate that a stimulant drug isn’t working, the procedure for troubleshooting the treatment usually will be as follows:

Make sure you know the diagnosis. Diagnose and evaluation mistakes can occur. Recheck the drawing board to make certain that you are using the correct diagnosis and all diagnoses available.

Examine the absorption. If the patient does not show positive effects and has no adverse side negative effects, it could mean it’s not effectively taken in. It is recommended to stay clear of the intake of organic acids (citric acid and ascorbic acids, such as soft drinks, juices from fruits daily multivitamins) approximately one hour prior to and after the dosage. (Note: Vyvanse and Daytrana are the only stimulants that are not affected by intake of organic acids). Transdermal delivery (via patches on the skin) is also a possibility to test.

Try non-stimulants. Non-stimulant drugs (clonidine and the guanfacine) are the second line treatment for ADHD. Although studies show that stimulants are more effective than placebos, people can get positive effects from non-stimulants. The next class of drugs is the alpha-agonist drugs Clonidine (Kapvay) and Guanfacine (Intuniv). Non-stimulants are the most effective when there is hyperactivity or insanity (i.e. an excessive amount of levels of energy, insomnia, or multiple thoughts at once).

Try the atomoxetine. Strattera is a great third-line treatment. It’s a noradrenaline-reuptake inhibitor, which means it has a significant responder rate (about 50 percent) and can be used in conjunction with other medications. However, Strattera also has a large number of adverse side effects, particularly for adults.


Bucky Robert

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