As attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) becomes a more commonly diagnosed condition in the US, the number of available medications to treat the symptoms of ADHD continue to grow. Sufferers and parents of children who struggle with attention disorders must compare choices between different ADHD medications ranging from pills to patches, such as Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, Metadate CD, Focalin, Daytrana, or any other of a stream of attention-deficit solutions and delivery methods.
The mechanisms of each medication rely on different mixes of fast and long-acting drugs that play to the preferences of the ADHD sufferer or the parents of an ADHD-diagnosed child. All of them have a singular goal: increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain so the pre-frontal cortex can control focus and organize thought. Many of the available medications for increasing these neurochemicals use one of two delivery methods – pills or patches – and each medication has its own set of pros and cons for ADHD patients. With all the options available, an in-depth comparison of ADHD medication choices is often needed in order to select the right option for every case.
Advantages and Disadvantages of ADHD Pills
One well-known ADHD medication to consider and compare comes in the form of pills. Pills are primarily intended for use by older children and adults and suffer from these shortcomings:
Kids don't like or can't swallow pills – If the person diagnosed with ADHD is a child, he or she may not have learned yet to swallow pills. Learning to do so is uncomfortable, scary, and dangerous, and some kids may refuse to try. Even kids who know how to swallow pills may be averse to it because of the discomfort it causes, negating the effects of the medication.
Medication is absorbed through the stomach – Fast-acting and slow-release medications alike must still work their way through the digestive system and into the intestine before the medication is absorbed into the blood stream. The mechanism of digestion may also cause some of the medicine to be improperly absorbed.
However, pills are the preferred method of delivery for most medications for a reason, as they come with advantages as well:
Teaches kids self-awareness and responsibility – If the person taking ADHD is a child, he or she must learn how to swallow pills, how to be aware of the importance of their medication, and how to make sure they are taking their medication on schedule. With the help of parents, they can learn real-world adult responsibilities through their treatment.
Medicines are well-balanced for ingestion – Available medications have a unique balance of slow-release and fast-acting drugs mixed carefully to provide relief from symptoms according to the timing of the digestive system and delivery of blood to the body. Beads in the medicine are usually formulated in 70% slow-release, 30% quick-release combinations or 50-50 combinations for extended treatment.
Advantages and Disadvantages of ADHD Patches
After evaluating the pros and cons of traditional pill-based ADHD medication, many patients may be interested in other options. Patients apply patches such as the Daytrana patch to the hip where muscle is sparse and the active ingredient, methylphenidate, can penetrate the skin and move directly into the bloodstream. However, the patch method is not always ideal:
Tactile sensitivity may lead to patch removal – Children, in general, are sensitive to touch and may be disturbed by the constant presence of a patch, but even adults may find that they are bothered by the presence of an all-day medicinal patch. ADHD may increase the anxiousness associated with the discomfort of wearing a patch which, once removed, cannot be reapplied.
Medicine in patches is absorbed slowly – The drugs rest in the adhesive backing of the patches and begin to reach into the skin as soon as they make contact, but the entire process can take up to 2 hours to reach a therapeutic level. If a patient removes the patch before the medicine has finished delivery, it may take an additional 1.5 to 2 hours for the patch's effect to wear off.
The Daytrana patch is one alternative to ADHD pill-based medication.
However, there remains a host of reasons to take advantage of the patch method of medication delivery:
There's no worry about taking more medicine – The patch delivers consistent amounts of ADHD-fighting medication throughout the day without the need to take an additional dose. Dosage can be controlled by choosing when to put the patch on and when to remove it.
There are no pills to swallow – Children and adults alike can enjoy the ease of use of patches without having to swallow or digest any medication. Since the medicine is completely absorbed through the skin, dietary and schedule changes are not necessary to compensate for the need to swallow a pill and send it to the intestine.
Which Is Better: Pills or Patches?
For those who are forgetful, busy, or often preoccupied, the patch method of delivery may be the most effective for treating ADHD. For patients who are disciplined, aware, and accustomed to swallowing pills, the pill method of delivery may be the most effective. Keep in mind that all ADHD medications have a common goal, and no method of delivery is particularly ineffective. Both methods of ADHD medication have their different pros and cons, and patients must decide what features are most essential. Choosing between pills or patches is a personal choice that you should make based on your lifestyle or the lifestyle of your child.