My medicine stops working too soon! What can I do?
Updated: Apr 3
Teens have long days. The most common medicines they use to manage ADHD symptoms last 8-12 hours. It isn’t surprising that stimulants don’t last long enough, but that doesn’t make it okay. What can you do to get everything done if you medicine doesn’t last long enough?
It goes without saying that we all need sleep to focus. People with ADHD often struggle with sleep, but they need sleep.
If you struggle to sleep, check out How can you get better sleep?
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep!
Organization helps us all. If you can stick to a schedule an prioritize things appropriately, you can get a lot more done than you realize.
Taking a little time to make a schedule can save you time in the end so you’re not lost trying to figure out what to do next, especially if you start and stop projects often.
For more on scheduling, see 10 Secrets of Productivity.
Knock out the hard stuff.
Get the hardest task done first.
Try to get your hardest subject’s homework done in your spare time during school hours or right after school.
We often put off the hard stuff due to procrastination, but that comes back to haunt us later! Get it out of the way and check it off the list!
Set reminders to get back on track. If you get distracted easily, figure out what helps remind you to refocus.
Use post it notes where they will remind you when you need the reminder.
For example, if you frequently stare out of a window, put a sign there to remind yourself to get back to work.
Turn off notifications.
No one needs an alert to know that they have a new social media message or email.
Yes, notifications and alerts can help you remember to do what you need to do, but only if timed properly. If you set an alert at the time you need to take medicine, that’s great! But random notifications that pop up when you’re in the zone doing something is distracting.
Schedule time to check whatever will need to be checked, but don’t check them while doing other tasks.
Those notifications are simply too distracting. Turn them off!
Would you benefit from studying in a public place, where having people around will keep you from daydreaming?
No one wants to be seen drifting off…
Or maybe you can simply invite an accountability partner to work with you. Ask a friend to study with you. Be each other’s accountability partner. Keep each other on track. Don’t talk and distract one another.
If your friend isn’t good at this, then have a heart to heart or find another study partner.
Exercise has been proven time and again to help us focus. Plus it’s just good for our bodies.
If you need a brain break, even a few minutes of walking around can help reset your brain.
We all have a hard time focusing when our bodies are hungry.
Grab a healthy snack to get recharged.
Healthy is not a sugar snack. Sugar might pop us up temporarily, but then we’ll crash later.
Think of snacks as mini meals. Eat something with protein and either a fruit or vegetable.
Good snacks are apples with peanut butter, carrots or cucumber with hummus, grapes and cheese, strawberries and yogurt.
Change your medicine
If your medicine doesn’t last long enough and all of the above still doesn’t help you focus for the duration of your day, talk to your doctor.
Sometimes increasing the dose of your long acting stimulant can increase the time that it remains above your treatment threshold. This may or may not be tolerated, since a higher dose may increase the side effects.
Some people will add a short acting stimulant in the afternoon. For instance, if you take a long acting methylphenidate in the morning, you could add a short acting methylphenidate in the afternoon. If you take a long acting amphetamine in the morning, you could add a short acting amphetamine in the afternoon.
Other people benefit from adding a different type of medication, such as guanfacine or clonidine to their daily routine. These medicines can last longer and have a different side effect profile from the stimulants, so if the addition of a short acting stimulant isn’t tolerated or desired, it can be another option.
Another long acting medication is atomoxetine. It also works differently than the stimulants do, so is an option for some people.
For more on ADHD Medications, see ADHD Medications: Types and Side Effects.