ADD/ADHD Drug Guide – part 3

In the first two articles of the series, we explored the drug class known as stimulants and their role in the treatment of ADD/ADHD.  While the drugs each have unique and differing properties, they also have many side effects.  These range from mildly bothersome to intolerable.  Listen up, people – these drugs are dangerous!  The drug companies don’t want you to know that, and they typically play down what stimulants can do to your body.  They use statements such as, “The benefits far outweigh the problems.”  This is their attempt to alleviate any concerns you might have so that you will buy their medications and use them regularly on a long-term basis!

So what are the side effects we are talking about here?  I am going to discuss them below.  But I want to be perfectly clear – I am NOT trying to scare the dickens out of you about side effects.  You must determine for yourself if this is a path you want to try.  But if you do, please be fully aware of the side effects so that you be be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary.  Let’s start today with the group of Methylphenidates (Ritalin, Metadate, Methyln, Focalin, or Concerta).

If you are planning on taking Ritalin, Metadate, or Concerta, be sure your physician knows about any of the following conditions you might have:

  • difficulties swallowing or a history of blockages of the stomach or intestines
  • family history of suicide
  • glaucoma
  • heart condition or a recent heart attack
  • high blood pressure
  • history of substance abuse
  • liver disease
  • mental illnesses including schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder
  • motor tics, family history, or diagnosis of Tourette’s Syndrome
  • overactive thyroid
  • seizures
  • have taken an MAOI like Carbex, Eldepryl, Marplan, Nardil, or Parnate in last 14 days
  • an unusual or allergic reaction to Methylphenidate, other medicines, foods, dyes, or preservatives
  • pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • breast-feeding

If you are taking certain medications along with one of these drugs, you need to know that the interactions can be very harmful.  DO NOT take these stimulants if you are taking any of the following medications:

  • Atomoxetine
  • Lithium
  • MAO Inhibitors such as Nardil, Parnate, Marplan, Eldypryl
  • Other stimulant medicines such as amphetamines, dextroamphetamine, dexmethylphenidate, modafinil
  • Procarbazine

Other medications that MIGHT interact are:

  • Medicines for high blood pressure
  • Caffeine
  • Clonidine
  • Drugs used to decrease appetite or cause weight loss
  • Medications for depression, anxiety, or psychotic disturbances
  • Medicines used to treat seizures
  • Warfarin

Interestingly, the drug company mentions that this is not an all inclusive list of possible interactions with medications, so they suggest you give your treating physician a list of everything you take.  This includes non-prescription drugs such as vitamins, herbal supplements, weight loss drugs, etc.

If you aren’t a bit unnerved yet, check out these side effects:

  • You may experience an allergic reaction like a skin rash, itching or hives, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue.
  • You might feel unusually nervous or anxious.
  • You may have chest pain.
  • You may notice that you are experiencing a fast and irregular heartbeat.
  • You may have a fever or hot, dry skin.
  • Your head, mouth, neck, arms, or legs may move uncontrollably.
  • You may notice unusual bleeding or bruising.
  • Side effects such as weight loss, headaches, and stomach upset may also occur.

Due to its dangerous nature, the government requires that you get a new prescription for these drugs every time you need a refill.  And here’s an interesting caveat:  “These medicines may affect your concentration.”  You mean the very medication you want to take to improve your concentration might actually inhibit it?  Hmmmm.

My point here remains the same.  You cannot afford to be too careful if you decide that medication is your choice of treatment.  But given what you’ve just learned about this first group of stimulants, don’t you think you owe it to yourself or to your child to try other avenues for treatment first?