ADHD Medication – a very brief summary

Methylphenidate is the most common drug prescribed for the treatment of ADHD, but there are four other drugs which are used (dexamfetamine, lisdexamfetamine, atomoxetine, guanfacine)

If you don’t come from a background of studying chemistry, these names can be quite intimidating. Methylphenidate is more commonly know by its brand names, such as Ritalin and Concerta, but both of these brands provide exactly the same chemical. The chemical formula is C14H19NO2, this means that the molecule contains fourteen carbon atoms, 19 hydrogen atoms, a singular nitrogen atom and two oxygen molecules.

The image seen above is the skeletal formula of a methlyphenidate molecule.

So now we know a little about the molecule itself, how does it actually affect your brain?

The way that a brain transmits messages across the gaps between different neurons is via chemical transmitters such as Dopamine and Norepinephrine. In order for the signal to be transmitted, a certain amount of these chemical must be in these gaps. For people with ADHD, this ‘threshold’ of these chemicals cannot be reached naturally. Methylphenidate, and other ADHD medications, work to combat this by interfering with the systems that clear these chemicals up after each signal is transmitted (a bit like a hoover), allowing enough to build up that signals can be properly transmitted. Essentially, for someone with ADHD to be able to hoover their room, the hoover in their brain needs to be switched off.

If you have started taking ADHD medication, you may also be aware that it can come in both a short acting and long acting form. The difference between these is in the structure of the pill, but the active ingredient is the same. There can be differences in the way this affects you throughout your day and it is important to discuss these with your doctor to find the type and dosage schedule that is most suitable for you.

If you do have any questions you would like this blog to explore, please email in at

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