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Why ADHD Medications Can Stop Working

Adult ADHD medication stop working

Why ADHD Medications Can Stop Working

Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient’s unique health circumstances and needs.

A lot of people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) use medication to treat their symptoms. These drugs can help patients focus, decrease impulsiveness, and aid with many other symptoms. Usually, these medications are effective; however, there are cases when the medicine fails to work or becomes less effective with time.
Here’s what people should know if they suspect their ADHD medication isn’t working as intended.

Consult a doctor to get personalized treatment and receive a prescription for your ADHD medication online.

What Influences the Effectiveness of ADHD Meds

First things first, there should be different approaches to measuring the efficacy of different ADHD medications. ADHD drugs are classified as stimulants and non-stimulants and start working at different rates:

  • Stimulants reach their peak efficacy quickly, but it does not last more than 12 hours. That is why taking a dose daily (or taking multiple daily doses, depending on a certain drug) is required. You will notice the medication effects wearing off quite quickly in this case.
  • Non-stimulant ADHD meds can take up to four to six weeks to make their effects obvious. In this situation, you may need more time to understand whether the medication is not working or if you have to wait a few more days or weeks.

Often, either of these medications works for most individuals; however, they may fail. The most common reasons are explained below.

Body Chemistry

Some people don’t get desired results from either ADHD drugs mentioned above since they don’t work as effectively with their body chemistry. Experts aren’t sure why this happens and state that some medications may stop working even when they worked well in the past.

Changes in Symptoms

At times, issues stopping a medication from working could be because of changes in symptoms rather than the medication itself. For instance, the symptoms may become too severe for the medicine to work appropriately. This could result from new (and stressful) life events and demanding situations, making it harder for such individuals to deal with ADHD.

Other Health Issues

An adult with ADHD can have other conditions like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, addiction, etc. These new conditions, especially depression and anxiety, could contribute to new symptoms, making it harder for ADHD medications to work correctly.

Be sure to go through a comprehensive assessment and receive personalized support at MEDvidi.

How to Make ADHD Medication Work Again

Note that any of the methods listed below can only be implemented after consulting your doctor. The article serves for informational purposes only. Do not alter your treatment plan on your own.

Increasing the Dosage

Often, medication management starts with the lowest possible dosage. However, doctors may recommend a small dosage increment over time to manage the symptoms. This process is followed by an observation period to determine possible side effects and effectiveness.

Signs ADHD medication dose is too low include minimal symptom relief, difficulty paying attention, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity. On the other hand, the symptoms of a too high dosage can include jitteriness, increased irritability, insomnia, headaches, loss of spontaneity and humor, and others. Consider consulting your doctor about the possible signs you should monitor, and then the professional will decide when to increase the ADHD medication’s dosage.

Side effects of ADHD medication

Changing Formulation

At times, a medication’s dosage isn’t the problem. Doctors could determine the medication’s effectiveness by the time it takes for it to take effect. Thus, it may be crucial for the patient and physician to select the correct formulation to ensure the medication’s effectiveness.

This includes a trial-and-error period to know whether an extended or quick-release formulation works best with your schedule. Alternatively, the physician may recommend that the patient mix the two formulations. For instance, they may start their day with a slow-release alternative and use a short-acting dose in the afternoon.

Changing the Type of Medication

Changing to a different type or class of medication can also help. For instance, the list of adult ADHD stimulant medications has amphetamines and methylphenidate. Suppose a specific medication doesn’t work for the patient. In that case, the doctor may switch to a different type of medication within the same class (e.g., amphetamine to methylphenidate) or change entirely to a separate class, like switching from stimulants to non-stimulant drugs.

Adding a Second Medication

Also, the physician may recommend that the patient try a second medication if one medication isn’t working. A 2013 study [1*] concluded that adding a second medication may help treat ADHD symptoms of patients whose primary medication wasn’t working as expected.

Consult a doctor to know how to achieve better results in your ADHD treatment.

Presence or Absence of Side Effects: What is Normal?

Like any other medication, ADHD meds can cause side effects. However, not everyone experiences all of them, not everyone experiences specific adverse effects, and some people may not have such issues with ADHD drugs at all. It highly depends on the individual, and there is nothing abnormal about it.

The most common side effects of ADHD medication include:

  • Trouble sleeping,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Irritability,
  • Jitteriness,
  • Headaches,
  • Fast heart rate,
  • Moodiness,
  • Stomach ache,
  • High blood pressure.

These side effects can be relieved by talking to the physician and adjusting the dosage. Thus, patients should expect to experience some side effects but talking to a physician to determine how to resolve the issue may help prevent the side effects from weighing the patient down.

ADHD Meds Not Working: What to Do

Patients who notice a decrease in the effectiveness of their ADHD medication can stop taking the medicines for some time. This can make the drugs effective again; however, the patients may experience increased ADHD symptoms. Patients should always discuss and follow their physician’s instructions before taking a break from their medication.

The effectiveness of medicinal treatment can be increased by supplementing it with other symptom management methods like lifestyle adjustments and psychotherapy. Therefore, patients should also participate in various non-drug treatments, including physical activities and meditation. They can also talk with therapists or psychologists specializing in ADHD.


ADHD is treatable with proper medication, support, and natural remedies for symptom management. However, affected individuals should seek help from a doctor, be ready to share, and find permanent solutions to issues causing their ADHD.

Consult our medical doctors online if you suspect your ADHD medication isn’t working appropriately.


+1 sources
  1. A Systematic Review of Combination Therapy with Stimulants and Atomoxetine for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Including Patient Characteristics, Treatment Strategies, Effectiveness, and Tolerability. (2013)
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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed


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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.