There are many options available to treat people diagnosed with ADHD. These options include a variety of medications, behavior-changing therapies, and educational interventions.

Mainstream treatments:
The first-line medication:

The first-line medication used to treat ADHD are mostly stimulants, which work by stimulating the areas of the brain responsible for focus, attention, and impulse control. These include:

  1. Caffeine -- though not an official mainstream treatment, the ubiquitous use of caffeine means that it is probably one of the most frequently used, unofficial treatments for ADHD. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea and cola soft drinks. Many students and adults will self-medicate with caffeine. Signs that one is self-medicating would be the observation that one's focus improves with the stimulant, and that one cannot function as well without it. Users often report that drinking caffeine in the evening does not impair their sleep, and that in fact, it may help soothe and relax them, thus helping them sleep better. Drinking only 1-2 cups daily is probably not self-medication, but someone who needs over 5 cups daily throughout the day in order to stay awake and focus may possibly be self-medicating.
  2. Nicotine -- found in cigarettes, many students and adults will self-medicate by needing to smoke several times daily.
  3. Methylphenidate -- Available in:
    • Regular formulation, sold as Ritalin, Metadate, Methylin. Duration: 4-6 hours per dose. Usually taken morning, lunchtime, and in some cases, afternoon.
    • Long acting formulation, sold as Ritalin SR, Metadate ER. Duration: 8 hours per dose. Usually taken twice daily.
    • All-day formulation, sold as Ritalin LA, Metadate CD, Concerta. Duration: 10-12 hours per dose. Usually taken once a day.
  4. Amphetamines --
    Dextroamphetamine -- Available in:
    • Regular formulation, sold as Dexedrine. Duration: 4-6 hours per dose. Usually taken 2-3 times daily.
    • Long-acting formulation, sold as Dexedrine Spansules. Duration: 8-12 hours per dose. Taken once a day.

    Adderall, a trade name for a mixture of dextroamphetamine and laevoamphetamine salts. Available in:

    • Regular formulation, Adderall. Duration: 4-6 hours a dose.
    • Long-acting formulation, Adderall XR. Duration: 12 hours. Taken once a day.

    Methamphetamine -- Available in:
    Regular formulation, sold as Desoxyn by Ovation Pharmacutical Company. Usually taken twice daily.

  5. Atomoxetine - A Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRI) introduced in 2002, it is the newest class of drug used to treat ADHD, and the first non-stimulant medication to be used as a first-line treatment for ADHD. Available in:
    • Once daily formulation, sold by Eli Lilly and Company as Strattera.
    • Duration: 24 hours per dose. Taken once a day.

Second-line medications include:

  1. benzphetamine -- a less powerful stimulant. Research on the effectiveness of this drug is not yet complete.
  2. Provigil/Alertec/modafinil -- Research on this drug is not yet complete.
  3. Cylert/Pemoline --a stimulant used with great success until the late 1980s when it was discovered that this medication could cause liver damage. Although some physicians do continue to prescribe Cylert, it can no longer be considered a first-line medicine. In March 2005 the makers of Cylert announced that it would discontinue the medication's production.

Because most of the medications used to treat ADHD are Schedule II under the U.S. DEA schedule system, and are considered powerful stimulants with a potential for diversion and abuse, there is controversy surrounding prescribing these drugs for children and adolescents. However, research studying ADHD sufferers who either receive treatment with stimulants or go untreated has indicated that those treated with stimulants are in fact much less likely to abuse any substance than ADHD sufferers who are not treated with stimulants.

Alternative treatments
There are many alternative treatments for ADHD, and all of them are as heavily disputed as the mainstream. This section attempts to deal with the most prominent of the alternative treatments.

Read more about the various alternative treatments: Feingold Diet, Neurofeedback, etc.,.