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Stimulants/ Concentration Assistance

Increase Focus and Attention

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Hope for Individuals with ADHD and Other Conditions

If you’ve been struggling with your focus as a result of a mental health condition, such as ADHD, you are not alone. Approximately 4.4% of the adult population in the United States has ADHD, although this figure is thought to be underreported. In addition, only 10.9% of adults with ADHD receive treatment. Attention difficulties can also be the result of other conditions, such as PTSD, chronic depression, and more. At Family Care Center in Colorado Springs, we offer concentration medication management to provide hope for those suffering with attention difficulties.

Stimulants/Concentration Assistance

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Stimulant

  • Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall)
  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
  • Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana)
  • Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
  • Modafinil (Provigil)

Non-Stimulant

  • Atomoxetine (Strattera)
  • Guanfacine (Intuniv, Tenex)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)

What are Concentration Assistance Medications?

While there’s no cure for ADHD, several medications have been found to greatly reduce symptoms, particularly when used in conjunction with talk therapy. There are two primary types of concentration assistance medications available — stimulants and non-stimulants.

Stimulants are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD. They are available in both immediate-release and extended-release formulas. When used in therapeutic doses, stimulant medication can improve a person’s focus, vigor, sociability, and mood. They exert their effects by manipulating monoamines, a class of neurotransmitters that control levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain.

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The use of stimulant medications is not recommended for those with a history of substance abuse. All stimulants have the potential for abuse and addiction when used in non-therapeutic doses.

Non-stimulants are much less common when it comes to concentration assistance, although they are a safer alternative for those with a history of substance abuse or those for whom stimulant medications have not worked in the past. Some mental health professionals also use non-stimulant medications as an adjunct to stimulants, when stimulants alone are not enough. All non-stimulant concentration medications work differently, which we will discuss further below.

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Who Could Benefit from Concentration Assistance Medication?

If you’re continuing to experience attention difficulties, in spite of ongoing counseling, concentration medication may be able to help in instances of:

On-Label:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • Narcolepsy

  • Shift sleep work disorder (SWSD)

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Off-Label:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)

  • Treatment-resistant depression (TRD)

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

  • Alzheimer’s disease (AD)

  • Cancer-related fatigue (CRF)

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On-Label Versus Off-Label Prescriptions

All medications must undergo an extensive evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being approved for prescription use. Even then, medications are only approved to treat a number of very specific medical conditions. For instance, while a medication may have been tested as a treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD), it will not get approved to treat MDD unless strong scientific data supports that the benefits outweigh the risks. When a medication is used “on-label,” that means that it has been prescribed for an FDA-approved use.

Off-label medication, on the other hand, is a medication that has been prescribed in a manner not currently approved by the FDA. For instance, many doctors prescribe stimulants to cancer patients to help them combat treatment-related fatigue. However, this use has not technically been approved by the FDA.

When it comes to stimulants and other concentration assistance medications, off-label prescribing is common, especially in instances where FDA-approved medications have not been effective in the past. In instances of off-label prescribing, your doctor has decided that the potential benefits of this medication outweigh the risks.

Off-label prescriptions can cause problems with insurance coverage. Many insurance companies will initially refuse to cover a medication unless it has been prescribed for an FDA-approved use. Getting around this may require some maneuvering on the part of your prescribing doctor. At Family Care Center, our medical staff is committed to helping you get the treatment that you need in an affordable manner.

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Commonly Prescribed Stimulants

AMPHETAMINE/ DEXTROAMPHETAMINE

This combination medication works by altering dopamine levels in the brain. While shown to be highly effective for treating ADHD, it is also commonly abused. An immediate-release and extended-release formula are available.

Brand Name

  • Adderall

Possible Side Effects

  • Stomach pain

  • Weight loss

  • Mood changes

  • Increased heart rate

  • Dry mouth

  • Insomnia

DEXTROAMPHETAMINE

Most commonly prescribed for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy, dexedrine works in a very similar manner to Adderall. However, it is generally more expensive and poses a higher risk of dependency, abuse, and addiction

Brand Name

  • Dexedrine

Possible Side Effects

  • Stomach pain

  • Weight loss

  • Mood changes

  • Increased heart rate

  • Dry mouth

  • Insomnia

LISDEXAMFETAMINE

This long-lasting stimulant alters the balance of norepinephrine and dopamine levels in the brain. It is increasingly becoming a preferred medication among prescribing doctors because it produces effects for up to 12 hours. Because of its lengthy half-life, it is considered less addictive than other stimulants, and causes less reported side effects.

Brand Name

  • Vyvanse

Possible Side Effects

  • Decreased appetite

  • Dry mouth

  • Irritability/anxiety

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Insomnia

METHYLPHENIDATE

A first-line treatment for ADHD, methylphenidate works similarly to amphetamine/dextroamphetamine, however its effects are generally more immediate and it reaches peak performance more quickly. For individuals who need longer coverage, extended-release versions (Concerta, Daytrana) are available. Methylphenidate can be taken orally (Ritalin, Concerta) or as a transdermal patch (Daytrana). Methylphenidate is moderately addictive.

Brand Names

  • Ritalin

  • Concerta

  • Daytrana

Possible Side Effects

  • Nervousness

  • Agitation

  • Insomnia

  • Stomach pain

  • Reduced appetite

  • Increased heart rate

DEXMETHYLPHENIDATE

Dexmethylphenidate helps ameliorate symptoms of ADHD and other concentration disturbances by making it easier for the user to concentrate, avoid distraction, and control impulsive behavior. Like the preceding stimulants on this list, dexmethylphenidate works by controlling norepinephrine and dopamine levels in the brain. The only major difference between dexmethylphenidate and amphetamine/dextroamphetamine is that the latter is also FDA-approved for treating narcolepsy. Both medications have a similar abuse potential.

Brand Name

  • Focalin

Possible Side Effects

  • Insomnia

  • Dizziness

  • Dry mouth

  • Sore throat

  • Heartburn

  • Stomach pain

MODAFINIL

Modafinil is an outlier among the other stimulant medications on this list, as researchers are still unsure exactly how it works. Often used by the U.S. military to stay awake on lengthy missions, modafinil improves wakefulness for up to 15 hours. Its long-lasting nature and little to no abuse potential makes it a wonderful medication option, however it can be difficult to get coverage from your insurance company.

Brand Name

  • Provigil

Possible Side Effects

  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Stuffy nose
  • Dizziness

Commonly Prescribed NonStimulants

ATOMOXETINE

As the most commonly prescribed non-stimulant medication for ADHD, atomoxetine has the benefits of having no known abuse potential and offering all-day coverage. Like stimulants, it works by increasing the amount of norepinephrine in the brain, yet unlike stimulants, it does not affect the dopamine system.

Brand Name

  • Strattera

Possible Side Effects

  • Insomnia

  • Dry mouth

  • Reduced appetite

  • Stomach pain

  • Irritability

  • Nausea

GUANFACINE

Although often prescribed to treat high blood pressure, guanfacine has been shown to improve attention and cognition in some ADHD patients. Guanfacine works by enhancing prefrontal cortical functions that regulate concentration and behavior. It has no known abuse potential, and offers all-day coverage.

Brand Names

  • Intuniv

  • Tenex

Possible Side Effects

  • Dizziness

  • Drowsiness

  • Low blood pressure

  • Insomnia

  • Dry mouth

  • Stomach pain

BUPROPION

Bupropion is a popular antidepressant that has been shown to have stimulating effects, although it has not currently been approved to treat ADHD. It works by inhibiting the reuptake of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain. Bupropion is a great option for individuals who suffer from co-occurring depression and attention difficulties, as it has the potential to treat both conditions. It has no known abuse potential.

Brand Names

  • Wellbutrin

  • Zyban

Possible Side Effects

  • Dry mouth

  • Insomnia

  • Agitation

  • Headaches

  • Reduced appetite

  • Stomach Pain

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Change Begins Today

At Family Care Center, we know that change is possible. We offer comprehensive outpatient behavioral services for individuals, couples, and families, including counseling, medication management, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and more. We provide services to anyone suffering in the Colorado Springs area, but specialize in veterans and military families. We accept many different insurances, including Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, and others. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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