Most of the newest ADHD meds released in the last two years have shown some sophistication in better targeting of some of the receptor areas of the brain connected with working memory. This is not such a great advance as is claimed by some of the pharmaceutical companies. But let us look at the issues of ADHD meds in general to help us through the maze. For a good general overview on ADHD in children, you can read the book here:-
There was a lot of fuss about how the stimulant meds were potentially harmful for the heart and the circulatory system. Latest studies show that this is largely unfounded but what has come to light is the role that these meds can play in increasing anxiety.
This has remained largely unaddressed but the newer meds seem to have gone some of the way to relieving this issue mainly because they are non-stimulants.
Examples of non stimulants meds
For example, Clonicel is the newer version of Clonidine . The main ingredient here acts on the target receptors in the area of the brain which copes with stress and tension. Results have shown that there are better results in some children and they were showing fewer temper tantrums and above all less irritability and less anxiety.
Other meds for ADHD have concentrated on issuing extended release versions and these are very popular now as they can reduce the number of times dosages have to be taken.
Why Ritalin and other meds have been superseded
The more traditional types of ADHD meds which were basically a mix of amphetamine salts, such as Ritalin and Concerta have had mixed results because they were targeting the areas of the brain which govern our production of dopamine and norepinephrine. These are essential, not only in keeping us motivated and on task but also in helping us to concentrate and to actually finish the task without wandering off. But they needed to be fine tuned.
The alpha 2a agonists
The newer meds such as Intuniv have done that tweaking in that they contain the famous alpha 2a agonist which can target much more efficiently the areas of the brain which are involved in memory, executive tasks and also in improving focus and the attention span. These drugs also seem to be more efficient in controlling the irritability and anxiety factors although every child seems to have a different reaction.
Why Focalin has become popular
Lots of parents are now going for Focalin extended release instead of Adderall because again this seems better equipped to deal with attention problems. The reason is that Focalin contains the dexmethylphenidate hydrochloride ingredient while Adderall contains a more general mix of amphetamine salts.
With Focalin attention can be improved but there is one side effect in many children which makes them giddy and unusually euphoric. The very opposite of being anxious.
As we have seen, the newest ADHD meds have made some progress in the following areas of reducing anxiety and other nasty side effects although they are sometimes replaced by others as we have seen above with the example of Focalin
ADHD meds and what else?
But the simple fact of the matter is that ADHD meds can only do so much. They can be just weapon in an armoury that has to watch out for behavioural issues and knowing how to solve them, looking after dieting, physical exercise and also ensuring that the child is not entirely dependent on his medication. Meds are really just the tip of the iceberg. So much will depend on the school and home environment.
Robert Locke MBE is a health enthusiast specializing in children's health and has written extensively on ADHD, parenting and mental health issues.
He is a contributor to Quora, Lifehack, The Good Men Project, Liberal America and How to Learn.
He has written "Facts About ADHD Children - Tips for ADHD Parenting" on Amazon. He has also published children' s stories (Ziger The Tiger series) , also available on Amazon.
After a long career in Italy in teaching and management with the British Council, he was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth II for outstanding achievement in December 2005. He still lives in Italy where he writes and teaches.