1. Participate in a Comprehensive Evaluation
There are many things an individual can do to increase the likelihood he will have a positive experience with medication. First, and perhaps most critical, it is important that the individual has participated in a comprehensive evaluation before starting medication and has a treatment plan in place that addresses not only ADD but also any co-morbid problems.
Failure to properly identify and manage any co-morbid conditions is one of the most common reasons people don’t do well with these medications.
He should also seek out a physician and other professionals with a significant amount of experience with treating ADD in children, adolescents, and adults to implement the treatment plan; the quality, value, and wisdom of the support, direction, and feedback an experienced clinician provides can help an individual through even the most difficult adjustments to medication.
2. Stick with the Medication for a “Fair Chance” period
Secondly, it is important for the individual to stick with the medication and give it a “fair chance.” It is not unusual for it to take several weeks or in the case of Strattera, a month or more for everything to settle down and the individual to start to reap the benefits of improved attention.
While patience is not usually a virtue of individuals with ADD, this is one place where working extra hard to persist can pay big dividends.
3. Maintain a Healthy Daily Routine
Finally, in my experience, establishing and maintaining what I call a healthy daily routine (HDR), is the single most important thing an ADD individual can do to have a positive experience with medication.
My staff and I put a lot of energy into helping our patients establish a good HDR consisting of the following:
- Going to bed and waking up at approximately the same time every day
- Getting an adequate amount of sleep; for adults this means approximately 7 or 8 hours and for children even more depending upon their age
- Eating three meals a day at predictable times
- Eating a balance of foods from all of the food groups
- Drinking adequate amounts of water ― for adults about 8 glasses a day
- Getting approximately 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day
- Participating in a mentally challenging activity other than work or school each day
- Taking time to participate in 15 to 20 minutes of a mind-centering activity (meditation, yoga, prayer, etc.) each day
- Spending time with family and friends each day
- Taking care of daily responsibilities: health, finances, home and work
The components of a HDR may seem so obvious, yet for many people – with or without ADD – establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very difficult. Over the years, I have seen the tremendous benefit of including these simple activities into daily life.
My patients who are committed to and consistent in their routines, time and time again, are successful with medication use and experience significant improvement in their daily functioning. My patients who are not are more likely to have problems with the medication and, often, do not experience the tremendous benefits others experience with medication.
When individuals embrace and maintain a good HDR, their medication works better, they experience fewer side effects, and they lead healthier, happier, and more productive lives.
A balanced HDR is so critical to a positive experience with treatment for ADD that I learned long ago to make it the first thing I ask about when an patient says things are not going well. I am almost always rewarded. When one of my patients who had been doing well complains that the medication does not seem to be working as effectively or that an unpleasant side effect has suddenly emerged, it invariably turns out that some element of his HDR has gone awry and things snowballed from there. My experience is that getting his HDR back on track oftentimes boosts the effectiveness of the medication and eliminates nagging side effects.
Keep the Goals of ADD Medication Treatment in Mind
There are three key goals in using medication to treat ADD.
First is to improve the individual’s attentional status. Specifically, we want the individual to experience increased arousal, improved focus, decreased distractibility, improved monitoring, and a longer attention span.
Secondly, the medication should enable the ADD individual to take advantage of the other therapies that are important in addressing all his needs. That is, we want the medication to make the individual more available to treatments that teach new skills and behaviors, provide compensatory strategies, and address co-morbid conditions.
Finally, and most importantly, the medication should assist the ADD individual to function efficiently and effectively in all life spheres throughout the whole day.
Tap into more of Dr. Liden’s expertise in the safe and effective use of medication to treat ADD/ADHD in his free ebook, ADD/ADHD Basics 3o1.