Positive and Negative Effects of Medication

Sometimes it can be hard to figure out what constitutes a positive reaction to a drug. Is it the medication or something else that is making you feel better? Which negative side effects are worth mentioning to your physician?

Zoning in on Positive Results

Your reaction may be immediate or gradual, but suddenly you're positive you've got a handle on your adult ADHD symptoms. You're not only thinking and acting better, but you're feeling better.

In fact, there are many signs that your medication is working. They include being better able to pay attention, feeling less distracted, being better able to recall things, getting things done on time more often, feeling less restless and jittery, tending to think before you speak instead of blurting things out, having more control over your emotions and moods, suffering fewer and less severe mood swings, displaying less erratic behavior, being more motivated, having an easier time starting and finishing projects, getting a better night's sleep, enjoying a better sex life, finding it easier to make and keep friends, and feeling less tempted to engage in reckless behavior.

One caveat to remember if your medication program appears to be working: Don't assume that just because you're feeling better, you can take less medication or, conversely, that taking more medication will make you feel even better. There's a very small difference between the right dose and too little or too much medication, so resist the temptation to experiment on your own. Include your doctor in your plans and discuss your experience with him.

Noting Negative Side Effects

Although every medication has side effects, not everyone has the same reactions to them. Some people may barely notice side effects while others may be so bothered by them that they have to take a lower dosage or stop taking the drug altogether. If you suffer from one or more of the following side effects, contact your doctor.

  • Personality changes. If you're normally sunny and upbeat and you suddenly become all doom and gloom, it may be time to switch to another medication.

  • Trouble falling asleep. While insomnia is a fairly common problem among adults with ADHD, if your medication makes things even worse ask your physician to adjust or reduce your dosage, prescribe ADHD medications with sedating qualities right before bedtime, or prescribe a sleep aid to help you fall and stay asleep.

  • Rebound effects. The majority of adults who take stimulants experience rebound effects of moodiness, irritability, and restlessness as the level of medication in their bloodstream decreases. Ask your doctor about ways to stabilize the level of medication in your body to avoid these fluctuations.

  • Appetite and weight loss. Many medications for adult ADHD cause a reduction in appetite and subsequent weight loss. Ask your doctor about timing your doses so your medication doesn't ruin your appetite for meals. If you're losing weight despite your best efforts, consider consulting with a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

  • Aches, pains, and tics. In some adults, ADHD medications can trigger nausea, indigestion, and headaches. To ward off stomachaches, take medication with meals. If medication worsens symptoms of a coexisting condition like Tourette's syndrome, call your doctor.

  • Rashes and skin disturbances. Many adults are allergic to the dyes and even the cellulose fillers in pills and react by breaking out in a rash. To avoid future rashes, switch to a medication that doesn't have the offending culprit.

  • Rapid heart beat or increased blood pressure. If you feel like your heart is racing, you can't catch your breath, you experience chest pains, or if your usual workout suddenly feels a lot more difficult, it may be a sign that you're taking too much medication.

If your medication isn't working, has stopped working, or your dose needs to be fine-tuned, you may feel anxious, depressed, jittery, restless, or unable to sleep; develop new symptoms you never experienced before; and experience inexplicable mood swings that seem to worsen no matter what you do.

In some cases, side effects are your body's way of announcing that you and the drug are not compatible. In others, these side effects are simply a temporary manifestation. In either case, you'll want to keep your physician abreast of them.

Side Effects Aren't a Life Sentence

If side effects are seriously interfering with your life, don't worry that you're stuck with them for life. There are many alternatives and “fixes,” from changing medication and dosage to taking a drug holiday and trying again later. You may also consider consulting with other medical experts to get a fresh point of view about medications and treatments you haven't yet tried.

The good news is that side effects of adult ADHD medications tend to be mild and temporary. In many cases, negative side effects simply go away within a few weeks. Most of those that don't go away on their own can be eliminated by simply changing the dosage or dosage schedule, or by switching to a new medication.

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