What Does Adult ADHD Medication Feel Like?

May 13, 2013 Elizabeth Prager

A reader recently asked me a really great question: how do I know my adult ADHD medication is working? I love this question! I'm going to take it in two parts. First, how I knew that ADHD medication was right for me and, second, what it feels like every day. This could be very different for other people, of course, but this is how medication makes me feel.

My Life Before Medication for Adult ADHD

What does taking adult ADHD medication feel like? How does ADHD medication make you feel?When I was a sophomore in college, I was sitting in my psychiatrists office and I told her how I was unable to read well. Whenever I'd read a sentence, it would make me forget the one I had just read. I had a hard time focusing and I had only read a handful of books in my life (and four of those books just might have been Berenstain Bears ...). She had an "ah-ha" moment and took out her prescription pad and wrote me my first script for Concerta.

The next day, I went to the pharmacy and returned to my dorm room to take the ADHD medication. I didn't notice an immediate change, but when I began and finished a book in the same day, I knew something felt right. It was right around the time of fall semester finals and I felt so capable. I think that was the big change. I felt like I could do whatever my professors asked of me. You want me to read an entire book in a day? Sure. You want me to write a thoughtful 20-page paper? Okay, why not? I had the focus, and even more so, the drive to do what needed to be done. Yeah, I was the one that had to do the work, but Concerta gave me the extra umph needed.

Before and After My Daily Dose of ADHD Medication

I still take Concerta for adult ADHD and I can now feel the change between pre- and post- dosing everyday. I wake up at around 6am each day, shower, and take my medicine. Around the time my wife is driving me to the train station, at 7am, is when I usually start to feel the medicine working. I feel a fire in my chest start to burn. I feel slightly anxious to start getting some work done, but it's not an overwhelming anxiety. I can keep it at bay if I need to, say, wait for my train before I can start studying. I definitely want to get going, though! I feel quicker of thought and smoother in my movements than I do on days when I take my "impromptu medication holidays." I feel surer of myself.

Taking ADHD Medication Didn't "Change Me"

I can speak forever on this subject, but there's one final (I think) very important thing to touch on about this. When I'm in the mood to goof off and I take my medication, it can often lead to me goofing off really well and in a really dedicated manner. When I am in a mood to work hard and just don't have the motivation and I take my medication, I am able to work hard and keep it going. For me, ADHD medication seems to allow me to focus in a natural way - either I'm really good at goofing off or I'm really good at hunkering down and working. This makes me feel sort of good, because I know it's not "changing" who I am - and that's a fear a lot of people have.

Any thoughts from my favorite peanut gallery ever? Any questions? How does it make you feel? More to come on this in the future, I promise!

APA Reference
Prager, E. (2013, May 13). What Does Adult ADHD Medication Feel Like?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Elizabeth Prager

February, 4 2018 at 12:56 am

Never really thought about ADHD but after reading about it sounds a lot like my childhood and adult life now, with PTSD mixed in. hard to admit there's anything wrong for me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 8 2018 at 1:31 pm

I am 43 years old and I started taking Strattera about a month ago. I never realized what an unnecessary handicap I had been living with until I sought out help for it.

September, 29 2017 at 3:11 am

I am on a waiting list to get tested for Adult ADHD and I am hoping it will give me the answers I have been searching for.
Virtually everyday of my life I have woken up and hated myself for being lazy. This goes back to early school where the teachers would give me hell for not paying attention and messing about. I tried but I just couldn’t get in the zone like everyone else around me.
Fast forward 30 odd years and I often sit in work trying to focus on the task at hand yet always seeming to drift off and not get stuff completed. I am not hyper anymore in the physical sense but my mind pings from one subject to another without any real control of focus. I get confused when multi tasking and if you ask me to go back to what I was doing before you distracted me, you had better give me a good few minutes to get my head together. For me, I have always looked at myself as lazy as I avoid tasks that require extended periods of concentration even though I have every intention of doing the best I can. It was this polarised thought process that lead to the self-resentment and poor self-esteem which eventually landed me in front of the Doctor for depression which I had probably struggled with for about 15 years. The pills for that have worked to a point and I can bounce back from the little things in life which happen which used to send me into a pit of despair. But the ADHD though……
I am sure I have it as when I was born I suffered a serious birth trauma. The cord was wrapped around my neck twice and I was born emergency caesarean which I understand is closely correlated with ADHD in people with no genetic history of the syndrome. I have been told that I nearly didn’t make it and my mum nearly went to. None of my family have any signs ADHD, in fact they are mostly academics and have jobs that involve extreme focus and attention to detail.
Anyway, here I am wondering what the future holds and if one day I will be able to realise my potential at work and in life in general. The effects the drugs have sound amazing and if it allows me to stay in a focused zone and take it all in without my mind pinging about and drifting off then it would be the day I have wished for, but never thought would arrive.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 5 2017 at 6:47 pm

So sorry to hear about this, Stuart. :-/ Even though I know it's painful, I appreciate you sharing your story here. I think a lot of people who are diagnosed with ADHD at a later stage in life suffer from depression and anxiety, frequently due to problems caused by ADHD and other people's reactions to ADHD.
For me, it has taken both a therapist and a psychiatrist who are on the same page to get the diagnosis. We have gradually been testing medications. Though not a miracle drug, they have helped so much. There have been difficult times with the meds, but when they are an appropriate prescription and dosage, they give me hope about what I can accomplish.
Having a coach or therapist is also very important, in my opinion. Feel free to continue to check in with HealthyPlace's 'Living with Adult ADHD' blog for more conversations about ADHD. Best of luck with everything!

August, 30 2016 at 11:55 pm

I hate Adhd medication. The symptoms are always pretty strong for me. Cant sleep at night, get nervous and panicky. When a normal stressful situation comes up, instead of feeling uncomfortable or unsure, my heart keeps beating faster and my adrenaline keeps pumping, Concerta makes it hard for me to want to be social, I feel more paranoid on it. I think Id rather try and stay focused and organized naturally. Sleeping good and enjoying others sounds nice.

July, 17 2016 at 6:08 pm

I always felt different than the rest. I felt I was not as smart as others; I saw that other people could get everything on a meeting but somehow I just understood part of it. Every time I had to go to a meeting for a new project I was/am scared because it takes me longer to understand what is the project about. Also when I am in a meeting I just pay attention to the first 10 minutes and then my mind goes to other places and I got mad at myself cause I though I was irresponsible but the reality is that I could not control it. My self-esteem is really low cause I feel stupid. Two weeks ago I just told my doctor that I just could not focus and she sent me for assessment. It turns out I have ADHD and suddenly all the answers to my questions from 23 years started to appear. I never cry for some reason but as soon as I understood what was happening I was just bawling. I am about to get my medication in a couple of weeks and I am very nervous. I just hope it helps me and make me be normal as the rest of the people. Your comments have been very helpful for me. Thanks all

July, 13 2016 at 9:10 pm

Hi, I know I'm late to the party but I guess I need to discuss it. I think I have ADHD and it's only bothered me a little until now that I'm try to attend school for biomedical engineering. I've never needed badly to study until now and I've always avoided it because it never really helped anyway because it would just go in one ear and out the other. None of the psychiatrists ever call to remind me of an appointment and I keep forgetting to check my calendar so I have missed my last 2 appointments. I am about to break down because I really can't remember. I can't remember what I just read and I can't remember my classes even though I just sit through them. It's killing me. I gotta buy an alarm clock I guess so I can have it ring and remind me. That is as long as I recall what I set it for. I want my brain to work and I feel slow. Like I just feel slow. I know I can do better but I just never do. I'm meant for something great and I can never stick to my goals I always end up changing when things get too hard because I just can't do them.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Martyn Davidson
September, 25 2017 at 3:49 pm

Hey Nick I know how you feel buddy. I'm 21 years old and I decided to go back to school because I want to go to uni but I just can't focus on anything that doesn't completely immerse me. Like I know soo much about biology because I just hyperfocus on it or I watch endless crashcourse videos by Hank Green, but when it comes to actually doing the assignments I can't. I just can't stay focused. I have to read pages 3 or 4 times because I just don't process the words. My mind enters another dimension even though my eyes are reading the words. I never considered myself having a mental disorder but thanks to John Green talking about his mental disorder on his youtube and linking us to "How to ADHD" I never would have known. I too want to do biology and I kept falling in to this despair where I just think I'm stupid because I can't do the assignments, even though I know everything that's required. I have final exams coming up and I've been getting really stressed because I still have assignments due and I need to revise. I am going to get diagnosed in a couple of days and I really hope the medication helps me focus enough to get the grades I need to get into Uni. I just wanted to let you know, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Hang in there and maybe when we are both Qualified scientists we might cross paths and share our journeys.

April, 9 2016 at 1:29 pm

My dr. started me on the generic adderal extended release ten days ago. All I feel is slrepy/foggy. It gives me headaches, drymouth, sore eyes, cold hands/feet actally whole body is cold. All I want to do is get warm and go to sleep. I have no drive at all. My fingers sometimes hurt too. Will this get better?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 10 2017 at 10:50 am

Jesse, were you tested for Celiac disease?!

March, 23 2016 at 10:55 am

I have been on adderall since i want to say 8th grade. I'm 21 now and i feel like i can't accomplish things if i don't take it and it is pretty scary... i mean why do i need this to be normal? it can't be healthy to be on this forever... don't know what to do!

Ashlyn Swift
March, 12 2016 at 7:23 pm

@ Lilia
To start off, it is the year of 2016 and I don't know if people still get on here but I really wanted to comment. I was just recently diagnosed with ADHD (hyperactive-impulse) type.. My whole life, I knew I was different. Lilia, you hit it right on spot. I'm not lazy or stupid.. I am SO impulsive and it defintely shows. I speak/act without thinking, such as, blurting in appropriate things out, fidget, not be able to focus (first semester I earned a 1.9 GPA) and what I am so ashamed to admit, spit on people. Its like I can't help the impulsiveness!!! I'm 19 and I have yet to meet someone (friendwise/relationship wise) who can understand "my ways" and love me for who I am, but I know if I didn't get help soon, I was going to live my life in regret and misery. Everyone says I lack commons sense and I'm too goofy (coping method for always being "off") .. I finally went to see a therapist a couple weeks ago, I see her every Friday at 4:00. I can't wait till I get through the long week just to see her. I'm so anxious to get better and be able to focus, work towards being a better person and being able to say I love who I am because I fought to be that. My therapist is so loving, and I can tell she genuinely wants to help me. I still haven't been put on medication, but I am really excited for this journey. I just wanna get better. I pray and ask God for guidance everyday. Even thinking about recording this journey. I HOPE EVERYTHING IS GOING WELL FOR EVERYONE! Remember, God blessed us with this gift to help others. It's not going to be easy, but it will be worth it!
(Here I go over talking lol, I'm good for it)
Thanks for reading...hope to see everyone at the top!

January, 16 2016 at 4:19 am

I also took my first pill for ADHD today @ 31 and am feeling the same way is it normal?

September, 2 2015 at 7:54 am

Hi. I see this post from a few years ago. Are you still taking meds for ADHD? I just took my first pill today and I'm feeling nervous or shaky. Kind of scared because of the unknown. I hope it works for me. I'm starting late in life taking this med but for once in my life I want to read and remember things without being embarrassed about not remembering details of a conversation. How is everyone doing here? How long before you felt the difference? Thanks all.

May, 28 2015 at 4:11 pm

hello Elizabeth,
we'll I have to say I knew I had adhd most of my life and especially growing up, but my parents thought I was just craz, so I had to deal with it and it has been a struggle. But As Of Today I Received My First Dose Of Vyvanse And I Have To Say I Can Already Tell The Difference I'm Way More Focused Than Before, And I Guess I Noticed Right Away Because I Went Untreated Most Of My Life I'm Am 31 Yeah Old And Have Do Much I Want To Accomplish, But JUST Could Not Get There. The Treatment Really Gives The Boost I Needed And I Can't Wait To Share Treatment With Others Who Have Gone Diagnosed For Hears Like ME And Hopes To Inspire Them To Do So. Thank you for this blog!

April, 27 2015 at 4:23 am

I'm in the process of getting my medication for ADHD (inattentive) sorted out. It worried me that the meds could make my head foggy, as I've seen people say on tv shows (not a good source of info, but it was all I had seen). For years I'd been searching for a natural remedy, but any supplements I've taken have helped only a smidge. Finally I reached a point where medication or not SOMETHING needs to change. Now that they can finally diagnose my type of ADD, I'm all in.
Thank you for this!!! I am in Canada, so I'm not sure what will be prescribed, but I'm really excited to get it started.

Lilia Amaya
April, 2 2014 at 5:34 pm

I want to get back on my ADHD medication but my mom thinks its all in my head. But i know im different from other people. Im always forgetting things ! I am unorganized and everytime i try to make myself pay attention in class before i know it im day dreaming then i realize, hey i dont kniw what my teacher was talking about at all?! Im also self concious about it cause i have trouble explaining things to people and it embarrases me so sometimes i just dont wanna talk to anybody, i even forget what im talking about? And i notice it all and its such a drag ! My friends think im stupid or lazy but its just me struggling noone understands.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Elizabeth Prager
April, 5 2014 at 6:52 am

I hear you, Lilia! Adult ADHD can definitely make you feel the way you say you do ... and medications can certainly help. Do you still live at home? Does your mom's opinion change how you experience how you feel? It'd be great to bring these points up for your doc and to find our their medicial opinion of your symptoms to make sure taking medications would be the best course of treatment. Thanks for sharing!

Travis Douglas
May, 25 2013 at 2:56 pm

I am a personal trainer and also worked at a health food store. I was diagnosed with ADHD about 9 months ago at the age of 34. I decided it was time to talk to a professional for what I thought was depression. After 2 sessions she gave me a book driven to distraction. Thought I was reading my life story. Anyways I was prescribe Vyvanse and its changed my life. instead of my thoughts coming out in a jumbled mess of information to clients and customers. I can now articulate things smoothly and efficiently without jumping all over the place. Its helped in other aspects of my life and the more I learn about it the more baggage I can leave behind. Love the Blog thank you!

May, 19 2013 at 6:09 pm

Thank you so much for that. Before I read your blogs I had a hard time finding much on the internet where people came right out and stated the before and after differences when they take their ADHD medication. I have struggled for several years on if ADHD was even real or if medication would even make a difference so I am so glad to hear about how if does work and it does make a difference. I look forward to seeing what a difference it makes in my life when I start taking my medication. Thank you for sharing!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Elizabeth Prager
May, 20 2013 at 8:32 am

I'm happy to be as loud as I need to be to help :) Thank you for your comment, Abby! Best of luck!

HIlary Frew
May, 15 2013 at 9:03 am

I agree. Recently I started taking Vyvanse and it definitely allows me to have a "flow" when I'm working. I learned about this in one of my psychology classes, that this flow can happen when you want to goof off or really buckle down. Either way, my medication allows me to do many things at once, which Adderall did not.

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