Why Hyperactive Kids are Treated with Stimulants

Certainly sounds counterintuitive. Most laypeople think medications that treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Adderall, are sedatives, when actually they are the exact opposite. They are stimulants.

The reason ADHD people are treated with stimulants becomes clear once you understand why ADHD people appear hyperactive.

The senses receive raw information. The ear hears everything, but only some of those sounds are relevant, the rest is background noise. The brain has a filter which filters out the irrelevant background noise. In a crowded area where everyone is talking, the filter allows us to focus on the person talking to us, ignoring all the other conversations. If the filter isn't working the person will hear not only you talking to them, they will also hear and process every other conversation going on in the room. This is what makes ADHD people appear hyperactive. ADHD people have a brain filter that isn't working as well as it should. They are constantly distracted by everything else going on around them. Not just sound, but visual "background noise" too. ADHD people are constantly reacting to everything going on around them making them appear hyperactive. They are unable to focus on what's relevant and filter out the irrelevant.

The solution is to get the filter part of the brain working again. You do that by administering stimulants. Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, they're all stimulants. Stimulants get the filter part of the brain working again. The person is then able to focus on what's relevant, correctly ignoring and ceasing to constantly react to the irrelevant, the way everyone else does. This results in the appearance that the person is calmer, because upstairs in the brain the filter is once again properly filtering out the irrelevant so the person isn't constantly distracted and reacting to irrelevant things.

Amphetamine is not Methamphetamine

Amphetamine is not the same as methamphetamine. The two words refer to two different different chemical compositions. A third word, "Amphetamines" (plural), refers to a group which contains both amphetamine and methamphetamine and other related chemicals. So we have three different concepts to distinguish:

  1. Amphetamine (useful)
  2. Methamphetamine (not so useful; too strong)
  3. Amphetamines (a group containing both Amphetamine and Methamphetamine.)

Adderall is a combination of four different chemicals:


EACH TABLET CONTAINS: 5 mg 7.5 mg 10 mg 12.5 mg 15 mg 20 mg 30 mg
Dextroamphetamine Saccharate 1.25 mg 1.875 mg 2.5 mg 3.125 mg 3.75 mg 5 mg 7.5 mg
Amphetamine Aspartate 1.25 mg 1.875 mg 2.5 mg 3.125 mg 3.75 mg 5 mg 7.5 mg
Dextroamphetamine Sulfate USP 1.25 mg 1.875 mg 2.5 mg 3.125 mg 3.75 mg 5 mg 7.5 mg
Amphetamine Sulfate USP 1.25 mg 1.875 mg 2.5 mg 3.125 mg 3.75 mg 5 mg 7.5 mg
Total amphetamine base equivalence 3.13 mg 4.7 mg 6.3 mg 7.8 mg 9.4 mg 12.6 mg 18.8 mg

Adderall is useful in treating ADHD and is also useful in treating clinical depression when used in conjunction with other antidepressants.

There is however a drawback to using Adderall long term. Adderall constricts the blood vessels to the teeth and gums, so after many years of use hair and teeth start to fall out. Fortunately there are other medications which can treat ADHD.

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1Physicians' Desk Reference (2004) (www.PDR.net)
"The current official list of controlled substances can be found in section 1308 of the most recent issue of Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1300 to end (21 CFR §1308)"