What to Expect and What NOT to Expect from Stimulant Medication
by Kathleen Nadeau, PhD
Many clients taking stimulant medication aren’t sure what to expect from it. They may have unrealistic expectations of their medication and decide it’s not working. Or they may have become used to the benefits of stimulant medication and think it’s no longer working.
Here’s a list of things to expect when taking stimulant medications. Of course, everyone has a different reaction and a different level of sensitivity to medication, so some seem to benefit much more clearly than others.
A good response to stimulant medication typically results in:
– Improved attention span – being able to read longer while staying focused; being able to listen longer while staying focused.
– Reduced distractability – being able to remain focused when some distractions occur around you.
– Greater ease in getting back on task after an interruption.
– Better working memory – i.e., being able to remember the three things you went downstairs to get.
– Easier to start tasks and complete them.
– Reduced feeling of stress and overwhelm.
– Decreased irritability and over-reactivity
– Reduced feelings of restlessness or hyperactivity
– Reduced impulsiveness – less likely to interrupt, to make decisions with little consideration for costs or consequences
However, as William Dodson, MD, said so memorably, “Pills don’t build skills.” You shouldn’t expect stimulant medication to help you organize your files, improve your study skills, write your paper, prioritize your tasks, reduce your clutter, or problem-solve better. But it will put your brain in a state where these skills can be more easily learned.
Often, the best pairing is stimulant medication in combination with a therapist, organizer or coach that is helping you build the skills you need to succeed now that you’re able to focus and concentrate.