Why do stimulants work when you have ADHD?



Inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive children often suffer from a lack of attention. This is because those with ADHD have an imbalance in certain neurotransmitters within their brains which help control how they behave as well as their focus. In the brain, there are two main neurotransmitters that play a role in ADHD: norepinephrine and dopamine. Norepinephrine helps regulate arousal in the brain, while dopamine is responsible for focus and attention. When a student with ADHD takes drugs that raise levels of these neurotransmitters, they are often able to concentrate better and behave more appropriately.

Ritalin or Adderall


It has long been known that stimulant medications such as Ritalin or Adderall can help to treat symptoms found in ADHD. The problem is that these medications ‘help’ the neurotransmitters get used up faster, meaning they would need to be taken more often or in higher dosages. Stimulant drugs work by binding to dopamine and norepinephrine transporters (DATs) which are proteins on neurons that take neurotransmitters away after they have been released. Blocking the reuptake of these neurotransmitters, therefore, means more dopamine and norepinephrine are available to bind to receptors in the brain, leading to increased focus and concentration.


The most common stimulant drugs used for ADHD treatment work by blocking DATs. Drugs like methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine (Adderall) are very effective in treating ADHD symptoms, but they also block the reuptake of two other neurotransmitters: serotonin and norepinephrine. These drugs increase the levels of all three neurotransmitters, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, although to varying degrees.

Medications that increase dopamine levels in the brain are typically effective in reducing symptoms of ADHD. A study at Stanford University found that children with ADHD had fewer symptoms when they took doses of methylphenidate. The findings were based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, which showed reduced levels of dopamine transporter binding in participants.


The study at Stanford used a technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the amount of dopamine in specific regions of the brain. In participants diagnosed with ADHD, brain scans showed that drugs like methylphenidate did result in a significant increase in dopamine concentration. This is important because an excess or shortage of dopamine can lead to hyperactivity or inattentiveness. In fact, according to a study done by Harvard Medical School, drugs that increase dopamine concentration have been used for decades to treat schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.


Methylphenidate can be an effective drug in treating ADHD symptoms because it blocks the dopamine transporter, making more dopamine available within the brain. However, for this to work, the drug needs to cross the blood-brain barrier. A study at Cardiff University found that administering drugs that are too ‘large’ or have a complicated chemical structure often has problems crossing this protective layer of cells. According to the study, one factor that affects how well drugs can cross into the brain is their size and complexity.


Methylphenidate is a psychostimulant medication that is used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The drug works by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which results in increased focus and concentration. Methylphenidate can be effective in treating ADHD symptoms, especially in children. However, the drug may not be able to cross the blood-brain barrier as easily because it is too large or complex.

My Experience?

I take Contramyl XR 36mg every morning. It has saved my life because it ‘calms’ my brain. This allows me to focus on whatever task I am working on, and since I work from home, this is highly beneficial.





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