The Timing of ADHD Meds

Adderall and its extended variant, Adderall XR, kick in about 30 minutes to 2 hours. The half-life and the efficacy of ADHD medications depend on the medication type your doctor has prescribed.

ADHD Medication Types

  • Stimulant

  • Non-stimulant

Adderall is a stimulant, hence works quickly to become effective, most likely to kick in within an hour. The effectiveness continues for about 4 hours. The extended version of Adderall XR lasts about 12 hours.

Non-stimulant ADHD medications take days, weeks, or even more to see their therapeutic effect.

Doctors prescribe stimulant medications as the first line of ADHD treatment. Acts on our central nervous system, it augments the number of neurotransmitters in the brain.

The increased number of neurotransmitters, dopamine, and norepinephrine, improves the ability to focus and concentrate and lowers hyperactive and impulsive behavior.

Stimulant ADHD Medications

Time to kick in

Time to kick in


30 minutes

4 hours


1 hour

12 hours


2 hours

12 hours

Quillivant XR

45 minutes

12 hours


30 minutes

4 hours


30 minutes

4 hours


1 hour

14 hours


30 minutes

6 hours

Stimulant Medications

These medications belong to the amphetamine or methylphenidate group. As you can see from the table above, most of them kick in 30 mins, others in 2 hours, and last from 4 to 12 hours.

Common Stimulant Medications for ADHD

Adderall or Adderall XR

The non-extended formulation kicks in between half an hour and one hour, and the effects decrease in about 4 hours. The XR version lasts for 12 hours.


A long-lasting methylphenidate drug. It uses an osmotic controlled-release oral delivery system (OROS). It is a unique delivery system, the effect of the drug 1-hour post swallowing the pill. The effect lasts for about 10-2 hours.


A methylphenidate patch children can wear, the drug penetrates the skin and gets absorbed into the bloodstream. It kicks in 2 hours, and the effect stays 3 hours after the patch removal. They can wear it for 9 hours.


It works within 30 minutes to 1 hour. The short-acting pill stays effective for 4-6 hours. It has an extended version called Spansules, which remains effective for 8-10 hours.

Focalin and Focalin XR

Both get into effect in 30 minutes. Focalin stays in effect for 4 hours, while the XR continues for 12 hours.

Jornay PM

You can administer the extended-release methylphenidate hydrochloride capsule between 6-9 pm. It starts in 12 hours and remains active most of the next day.


It is a longer-acting mixed amphetamine salts composition. The effect of this formulation starts in about 2 hours and last for 16 hours.

Ritalin and Ritalin LA

Both get into effect within 20-30 minutes after administration. The short-acting formulation lasts 3-5 hours, and the longer-acting (LA) stays in for about 8 hours.

Qullivant XR

It is methylphenidate available in a liquid formulation for children who cannot take the pills. The extended formulation starts its effect in about 45 minutes and lasts up to 12 hours.


Orally taken, the body's enzymes metabolize the prodrug to start its effect. It takes about 1-2 hours to affect and lasts about 14 hours. It is a smooth drug, as you will feel no jolt in the system when this medication kicks in. Less of a rebound when it wears off.

Nuvigil & Provigil

It treats excessive daytime sleepiness or feeling drowsy during the day because of underlying health conditions like sleep apnea. The doctors use them off-label for ADHD treatment. One tablet a day to treat narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). We administered it one hour before the shift to treat shift work sleep disorder (SWSD).

Dyanavel XR

The doctors prescribe it for its extended-release formula oral suspension or a single daily pill for children six years or older. A dosage of 2.5 -5 mg once a day in the morning with food. Doctors may increase the dosage to a maximum of 20 mg a day. It starts into effect in about one hour and remains active for up to 13 hours.

Non-stimulant Medications

The second line of AHD treatment is non-stimulant medications. These drugs treat ADHD. Researchers do not consider them as effective as stimulant medications. Doctors prescribe non-stimulants when the patient cannot tolerate the stimulant because of the side effects or other existing health conditions.

Non-stimulants are slow and take many days to kick in, about 2-6 weeks or more, to become fully effective. With the drug, patients can feel the efficacy with time. They take time to effect. Hence, adjusting to the proper therapeutic dosages based on the health condition takes time.

Common Non-stimulant Medications for ADHD


Doctors prescribe the drug for controlling blood pressure. It takes two weeks or more to be effective.


A tricyclic antidepressant to treat ADHD takes many days or weeks to see the effect and benefits. Once it reaches its level, it lasts for the entire day.


It is a time-release formulation of the antihypertensive medication guanfacine during waking hours. It takes about two weeks for Intuniv to show its effect.


A norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (NRI), its chemical composition is like an antidepressant. It takes about 4-6 weeks for its maximum therapeutic effect. The effect stays for 24 hours.


A selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) takes several hours to release the drug slowly, and you can administer it once daily. You can see a significant reduction in ADHD symptoms in 1-6 weeks.


Doctors prescribe the antidepressant as an option for off-label ADHD treatment, and it takes about 3-7 days to show the effect in you. It takes about 4-6 weeks to reach its maximum effect. It has an XL formulation taken once a day, and the effect lasts for 24 hours.


If the ADHD medication is working, you will feel less anxious and have fewer mood swings. You can better focus and concentrate on your tasks and complete them quicker. It will control your impulsive behavior and let you listen to conversations. It enables you to sit still and stay on the task. You can note down the ADHD symptoms you felt earlier and check if you see improvements in them.

Updated on: 28-Apr-2023


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