ADHD's Link to Parkinson's
Millions of people in America have been prescribed stimulants like Adderall to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There are roughly 6.1 million American children in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with ADHD.1 Adults can also be diagnosed, with recent statistics indicating that up to five percent of the American adult population has been diagnosed with ADHD.2
Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin are all stimulant medications that can improve a person’s concentration, making it easier for someone with ADHD to focus on school or work. The drugs have been shown to improve ADHD symptoms in 70 percent of adults and 80 percent of children.3
As helpful as these drugs can be for many people with ADHD, it’s also essential to understand its potential risks. Because it impacts the body’s central nervous system, ADHD drugs can have some severe side effects, including potentially significantly increasing your risk of developing early-onset Parkinson’s.4 Depending on what pre-existing conditions you have, you might want to consider other forms of treatment for ADHD.
How ADHD Medication Impacts Your Nervous System
People with ADHD can get bored extra fast when working on something that isn’t interesting. Therefore, many students with ADHD struggle to do homework or pay attention in class. However, that doesn’t mean that people with ADHD are doomed to struggle. Often, people with ADHD have highly successful careers working in fast-paced, high-intensity environments.
Even when someone with ADHD has found a passion for something, they can still struggle with certain aspects of their lives. The primary reason for taking drugs such as Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin is to balance the body’s central nervous system. Positive effects of these drugs include feeling more alert during the day, having more impulse control, and being able to concentrate on important tasks.
Side Effects of ADHD Medications
There are other ways ADHD drugs such as Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin can impact your central nervous system, though, which can lead to a negative experience overall. Some common side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Vision changes
- Slowed speech
- Trouble falling asleep
- Sexual drive changes
- Slowed growth in children
If you ever feel any serious side effects after taking ADHD medication, contact your health provider immediately. These can include the following:
- Paranoia or hallucinations
- Seizures or uncontrollable shaking
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions
Some people feel great when they take ADHD medications and only experience side effects when they stop taking them. Typically, people who feel withdrawal symptoms were abusing or overusing ADHD medications before they abruptly stopped taking it; however, that is not always the case.
These withdrawal symptoms can be challenging, but they should resolve on their own within a few weeks after you stop taking the medication. Let your doctor know what specific concerns you have with withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Panic attacks
- Extreme hunger
- Suicidal thoughts
- Irritability and anxiety
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- A general feeling of uneasiness
- Sleeping too much or being unable to sleep
How Stimulant ADHD Medications Impact Other Systems in Your Body
You might not be surprised to learn that stimulant ADHD medications can impact your central nervous system in ways that are not always aligned with your purpose for taking it. However, many people don’t realize that these medications can also impact other systems within your body.
Stimulant ADHD Medications and your circulatory system
All stimulants can impact your circulatory system in a few ways. They can make your heartbeat faster, increase your blood pressure, and constrict your blood vessels. You should avoid drinking alcohol when you take stimulant ADHD medications, as this can increase your likelihood of developing heart problems.
In a small number of extreme cases, people who take stimulant ADHD medications may experience a stroke or heart attack. Seek medical help immediately if you start to feel chest pain. People with pre-existing heart conditions can experience sudden death after taking stimulant ADHD medications.
Stimulant ADHD Medications and your respiratory system
Respiratory side effects from stimulant ADHD medications can be related to your respiratory and circulatory system. In some cases, patients might have trouble breathing or notice their fingers and toes turning blue because their bodies are not circulating enough oxygen. Call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room immediately for treatment.
Stimulant ADHD Medications and your digestive system
Stimulant ADHD medications increase how much glucose gets released into your system, which can cause all sorts of digestive issues. You might lose your appetite, resulting in unexpected and unwanted weight loss. This can be especially harmful to children who are still growing. Adults usually only experience weight loss temporarily, and they regain their appetite soon after their body adjusts to the medication.
Some digestive issues people who take stimulant ADHD medications might experience include the following:
- General stomach pain
Alternative ADHD Medications to Consider
Adderall is the most common prescription used to treat ADHD, but it is not the only one. There are two primary types of medications used for ADHD—stimulant and non-stimulant. These have the same purpose of helping you focus and feel calm. Tell your doctor about all your current medications and existing conditions so they can determine which one will likely work best for you.
Various kinds of Stimulant ADHD Medications
Stimulant medications, like Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin are the most commonly used treatments for ADHD. They can decrease your ability to get distracted and help you focus by increasing certain brain chemicals. Many people notice improvements within one to two hours of taking a stimulant for ADHD.
Stimulant ADHD medications use one of two first-line molecules—methylphenidate and dextro-amphetamine. Both types of stimulants can be habit-forming when taken incorrectly, so they should always be taken under the guidance of a licensed doctor. They have similar side effects.
In general, methylphenidate medications have been found to work faster than amphetamine medications. However, they stay in your system for less time. Some people prefer having their ADHD medication last only a few hours so they can control the side effects. ADHD medications that fall under this category include:
Amphetamine-based stimulant ADHD medications take a little longer to start working than methylphenidate medications. However, their effects can last longer, up to six hours for some people. Some people prefer to take a pill that lasts for a longer period of time to help them focus during the workday or school day.
ADHD medications that fall under this category include:
Non-stimulant ADHD Medications
Some people do not respond well to stimulants, while others cannot take them because of pre-existing health conditions. These patients might find better results with non-stimulant ADHD medications. Unlike stimulants that can start working within an hour or two, non-stimulant ADHD medications can take up to a week to start working. It can take a little bit of experimentation for patients to find the correct dose. Some non-stimulant ADHD medications on the market include:
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