7 Tips for Preparing Yourself to Take ADHD Medication

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Medication, when appropriate, can be effective in helping you manage your attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. These medications may be either stimulants or non-stimulants.

It's important to remember, however, that medication does not “cure” ADHD and is only a piece of the overall treatment plan, which may also include ADHD education, parent training, behavioral management methods, organizational strategies, school/work accommodations, coaching, and counseling.

For some individuals with ADHD, these combined treatments may even lead to a reduced need or smaller dosage of ADHD medication.

If you or your child is beginning a trial of ADHD medication, here are some helpful tips.

Get a Baseline Reading

Before beginning the medication, make notes of current behavior, sleep, appetite, and mood. These notes will serve as a baseline you can use to compare before and after medication patterns.

This information will help you and your doctor differentiate what changes are related to the medication and what may be related to the ADHD that is being treated.

Discuss Other Medications You Take

It's important for your doctor to be aware of any other medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, that you or your child are currently taking.

Medications can sometimes interact with one another, potentially causing problems or interfering with the potency of each other.

Be sure to inform them of any supplements or vitamins as well. Keeping your doctor in the loop about your questions, concerns, and observations is key in discerning what treatment plans and medications are right for you.

ADHD Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Mind Doc Guide

Ask About Other Possible Interactions

Ask your doctor if there are any foods, drinks, or other medications that you or your child should avoid while on your ADHD medication.

For example, your doctor may advise you to avoid consuming foods, drinks, and supplements that contain large amounts of vitamin C within one hour of taking Adderall. Taking Adderall with vitamin C may reduce your body's ability to absorb the medication, making it less effective.

Other foods that should be avoided for an hour before and after taking medication include soft drinks and fruit juices. They will also advise you to avoid substances that might increase the effects of your ADHD medication, such as antacids.

Know the Side Effects

Ask your doctor to clearly explain all possible side effects of the medication. Obviously, the benefits of the medication should outweigh the risks of potential adverse side effects.

Common side effects of stimulant medications include:

  • Anxiety
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Problems sleeping

Side effects of non-stimulant medications include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances

For the common, less serious types of side effects, ask your doctor what strategies you can utilize to help minimize effects. For example, it may be that taking food with the medication is helpful in reducing stomachaches or headaches, or adjusting the schedule of the drug will help improve appetite or sleep problems.

Understand Dose Adjustments

Your doctor will start at the lowest dose possible and adjust upward as necessary. Close communication is especially important during this time as you work together to reach optimal results.

Know that your doctor may need to adjust the medication a number of times to find the most effective level. If side effects become problematic, a simple downward adjustment often solves the problem.

If there doesn't seem to be significant improvement with the medication you or your child is taking, your doctor may begin a new trial with a different medication. Since everyone is different, it may be that you or your child respond better to one medication than another.

Get a Medication Guide

Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist for a copy of the medication guide to take home and read more thoroughly.

A medication guide is a paper handout that is included with some prescription medications. These guides help people better understand issues that pertain to specific medicines. 

Reading the medication guide included with your prescription can help you avoid potential adverse effects. It can help you better understand the side effects that might occur and it has directions for the proper use to help make your medication more effective.

If questions arise while reading through the sheet, don’t hesitate to call your doctor's office.

Follow Instructions

It's important to adhere to your doctor’s directions regarding the times your medication should be taken.

When medication is taken consistently during the day, you will have a clearer picture of its effectiveness. Ask your doctor what to do if you accidentally miss a dose or take too many doses. 

Missing a dose of your medication may reduce its efficacy or may lead to side effects such as fatigue, sleep problems, or headaches.

It is also important to talk to your doctor if you are thinking about stopping your medication. Suddenly stopping stimulant medications such as Adderall and Ritalin can cause withdrawal symptoms. 

Non-stimulant medications do not cause physical dependence and typically do not produce withdrawal symptoms. However, you should still talk to your doctor about other options for managing your ADHD and what to do if you experience symptom rebound.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Adderall CII (dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulfate and amphetamine sulfate tablets).

  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Amphetamine (Adderall).

  3. Michielsen M, Kleef D, Bijlenga D, et al. Response and side effects using stimulant medication in older adults with ADHD: An observational archive studyJ Atten Disord. 2020;25(12). doi:10.1177/1087054720925884

  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Strattera highlights of prescribing information.

  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Medication guides.

Additional Reading
  • Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). Managing Medication.

By Keath Low
 Keath Low, MA, is a therapist and clinical scientist with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. She specializes in treatment of ADD/ADHD.