How Do You Know If Your ADHD Medication Is Working?
It happens all the time, in fact, it happened just yesterday. I was talking to a new ADHD coaching client and she wasn’t sure how to know if her ADHD medication was working correctly.
It’s a common question which arises even when people are seeing high profile doctors. This lovely woman received her ADHD diagnosis and prescription from one of the world’s most well-known ADHD physicians and yet she still didn’t know what to expect from her medication.
It comes with changes in science. In the olden days of ADHD treatment the medication gave you a clear signal when it hit your system. Since the only medications available were short acting stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall, each dose would last around four hours and you’d need to take multiple doses each day. You knew your medication was working because a short while after taking your pill you’d feel a jolt and immediate focus.
Science has progressed greatly since then. Now we have extended release versions of ADHD medication and very long acting versions as well. This is good because many people can get by with taking just one pill in the morning. Also, drug addicts don’t like the long acting medications so there’s less abuse.
The challenge lies in the fact that the long acting medications have a much more subtle feeling than the short acting versions. If you’re deciding whether your ADHD meds are working by looking for that immediate jolt of a clear brain and an immediate focused feeling you won’t be able to get it.
So, though the long acting ADHD medications are easier to use, we have to change the way we determine if the medication is working or not.
And that begs the question…
How do you know if your ADHD medication is working?
The medication is an aid to help you manage your behavior and your emotions more effectively. So we’re not just looking at the physical behavior, is this person hyperactive or inattentive or not, we’re looking at how the brain is working and how well the emotions are controlled.
In order to gage whether your medication is doing its job you need to know what job you want it to do. You need to know your targets. You need to know what you expect to be able to do at work, with your family, and in your emotions.
So dive in and lay it out clearly and specifically.
What do you want your ADHD medication to do for you at work?
Do you want it to help you:
- Be on time for work?
- Be able to focus on completing your paperwork in the office?
- Read those boring reports and remember the details you read?
- Concentrate in meetings?
- Keep your desk more organized? Get those folders back in the filing system?
- Be able to manager projects more effectively instead of waiting for the last minute to get everything done?
What do you want your ADHD medication to do for you at home?
Do you want it to help you:
- Assist the kids with their homework?
- Pay attention to your wife when she talks about her day?
- Get the kids to bed without you being the cause of the chaos?
You need to look at your emotional regulation as well:
- How’s your anxiety level?
- What about that flash anger that so often comes with adult ADHD?
- How are you able to control these things?
- Are your emotions more even and not fluctuating as much?
There isn’t a right or wrong here. Everyone will have different targets. You need to know what target you’re aiming at in order to know if your medication is working correctly.
And remember that it’s not about the buzz. If you think your medication is working because you feel a buzz but you’re not paying attention or you’re paying attention to the wrong thing then your medication is not working.
So it’s really subtle. It’s about noticing how you behave when you’re not taking your medication and how you behave when you are taking it. It’s noticing how your brain is working and how your emotions are controlled. Noting these things will let you know if your medication is working correctly or not.
Much of my ADHD medication information comes from training I’ve received from Dr. Charles Parker. If you really want to understand ADHD medications and how they work I recommend you check out his book ‘New ADHD Medication Rules’ and his YouTube videos.
Dana Rayburn is an ADHD Coach in Oregon, but don’t worry… She works by telephone helping ADHD adults all over the world live more effortlessly and successfully with ADHD.