ADHD Medications

First Line ADHD Treatments

ADHD medication is an important part of ADHD management strategy along with the non-medicine strategies. ADHD medication has been around for more than fifty years and there are many published research papers on their safety and efficacy.

First-line treatment guidelines for ADHD medication are stimulant medication either a Methylphenidate or Amphetamine product. There are many different options within these two categories. ADHD stimulants work by blocking the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine within the brain. While Amphetamine also promotes the release of norepinephrine and dopamine.

Dr. Gurdeep Parhar, Medical Director at the Adult ADHD Centre discusses ADHD Medications and Myths on the Impulsive Thinker Podcast.

Canadian Stimulant Options

The medication, doses and possible side effects listed here are for educational purposes only. You should talk to your healthcare provider about the medication options available, their benefit and possible side effects. Medication should only be started/changed/adjusted by a patient’s physician or nurse practitioner.

Methylphenidate (Ritalin) Based


Dosages25, 35, 45, 55, 70, 85, 100mg
Duration13 -16 hrs
Starting Dose25mg
Maximum Dose100mg


Dosages18, 27, 36, 54mg
Duration12 hrs
Starting Dose18mg
Maximum Dose54mg


Dosages10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 80mg
Duration10-12 hrs
Starting Dose10mg
Maximum Dose80mg

Amphetamine (Dexedrine) Based


Dosages10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70mg
Duration13-14 hrs
Starting Dose20mg
Maximum Dose60mg

Adderall XR

Dosages5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30mg
Duration12 hrs
Starting Dose5mg
Maximum Dose30mg

Possible Medication Side Effects:

Medication management is usually effective with minimal side effects, some side effects may go away in time. It is always important to discuss with your doctor the benefits and side effects when starting any medication.

  • Palpitations
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased anxiety/ irritability
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Chest pain
  • Rashes

ADHD Medications Usually Help to:

Ability to Complete Tasks
Quality & Quantity of Work
Careless Mistakes
Impulsive Behaviour
Risk Taking
Emotional Outbursts

Please see CADDRA guide to ADHD pharmacological treatments in Canada – November 2022