Medicines for ADHD in adults

Also known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Medicines for ADHD are used to support other changes to your lifestyle and behaviour. Examples of medicines to treat ADHD in adults include methylphenidate, dexamphetamine and atomoxetine.

Note: The information on this page is about medicines for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults. For information about medicines for ADHD in children, see medicines for ADHD in children.

Medicines for ADHD in adults can help you to concentrate better, be less impulsive, feel calmer and learn and practise new skills. Read more about ADHD in adults. 

In Aotearoa New Zealand, medicines used to treat ADHD in adults include:

Methylphenidate is the preferred first choice of medicine. Dexamphetamine or atomoxetine are usually prescribed if you are unable to take methylphenidate or if it has not worked well to improve your symptoms. For people with some medical conditions, the use of ADHD medicines may not be suitable, for example if you have heart problems, thyroid problems (hyperthyroidism), stroke, epilepsy or tic disorder, or glaucoma. If this is the case, your doctor will discuss the suitability of other treatment options with you.

Use medicines together with other treatment strategies

Medication is used to support other changes to your lifestyle and behaviour. ADHD is best managed with a combination of treatments including medication, lifestyle changes, psychotherapy, education and knowledge. Read more about how ADHD is treated.

Monitoring and ongoing use

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the stimulant medicines (methylphenidate and dexamphetamine) are controlled medicines, which means they can only be prescribed in short courses. For all medicines used for ADHD, your doctor will review you regularly to see how well your treatment is working. Your doctor may suggest you try going off the medicine (for a few days or up to 2 weeks) every now and then to see how well you can manage without medicine. If problems occur, the medicine can be re-started. It is important that you don't start or stop your medicine unless you have been told to by your doctor.


  1. CNS stimulants and drugs used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder NZ Formulary
Credits: Health Navigator Pharmacists. Reviewed By: Maya Patel, MPharm PGDipClinPharm, Auckland Last reviewed: 22 Apr 2022