What Is an ADHD Patch?

By Ellen Braaten, PhD

Question:

My 8-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with ADHD, and her doctor recommended medication. A friend told me there’s an ADHD patch. Is this something we should consider?

Answer:

Every child responds differently to different types of ADHD medication. So I can’t tell you whether any particular one is right for your child. But I can explain what an ADHD medication patch is and how it works. This information may be helpful when you talk with your child’s doctor about ADHD treatment options.

An ADHD patch is a form of stimulant medication. Stimulant medications for ADHD (also known as ADD) typically come in a form that’s meant to be swallowed. That includes tablets, capsules or liquid.

But there’s another delivery system for one of the most common types of medication, methylphenidate. (Methylphenidate is often referred to by the brand name Ritalin. There are a number of other brands, however.)

This alternative delivery system is a patch called Daytrana. (It’s much like the type of patch used to help people stop smoking.) Daytrana looks like a large Band-Aid, and it comes in several dosage strengths.

There are pros and cons to Daytrana, just as there are with many medications. The main advantage of the patch delivery is that it can be used with kids who aren’t willing to swallow a pill or liquid medication. And you can take it off at any time to stop the flow of medication.

The main disadvantage is that it’s slow to kick in, compared to the other types of stimulant medication. (It takes about an hour to begin working.) It also doesn’t seem to produce as strong a response.

The patch works best when it’s worn on the hip, below the belt, but not where you sit. Alternating sides from day to day prevents skin irritation, which happens in a small percentage of kids.

One thing to know is that the side effects of the patch are the same as they are for other forms of stimulant medication.

If you’re considering ADHD medication, the patch may be something to look into. As you talk to your prescriber, keep in mind that fine-tuning a child’s medication can help manage both ADHD symptoms and side effects.

Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Ellen Braaten, PhD is the director of LEAP at Massachusetts General Hospital.