Frequently, I’m asked, “How do I know if my ADHD medications are working?” This is a fascinating question. I often find that people start taking meds with an expectation that they will magically become organized. Other times, it isn’t like a person is expecting to feel a buzz, but they do seem to expect to feel something cognitively. In excess, the meds can be noticeable. Some describe the experience as a calmness. In any event, you shouldn’t be feeling a buzz.
Furthermore, pills don’t teach the skills, so don’t expect to magically or instinctively become organized. In simple terms, ADHD stimulant medication helps a person sustain focus. In other words, maybe you could read only four of five pages of a book before starting to take meds. If after taking meds you can read three chapters, then you will know the meds are having an impact because you are able to sustain focus for a longer period of time.
Another thing to be mindful of when it comes to taking meds is the simple fact that the meds help you sustain focus, but they don’t tell you what to focus on. Knowing what to focus on is still a function of mindfulness. What I mean is that you should pause and pay attention to what you are attending to. Then question if it is the right thing for you to focus on or if you should be spending so much time focused on it. Alternatively, have the awareness to find a structure, person, or system that helps you determine what to attend to.
In short, pills don’t teach skills, so if you are feeling a buzz, there is a chance you are overmedicated. The litmus test is whether or not you are able to sustain focus on a task you couldn’t attend to before taking the meds or if you are able to sustain focus on a task for a longer period of time. If you can, then your meds are having an impact.
Jeff Copper, Attention and ADHD Coach