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Does Genetic Testing for ADHD Medications Work?

Written by Klarity Editorial Team

Published: May 3, 2022

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Zoe Russell

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects approximately 11.4 million adults in the U.S. The great news is that there are numerous medications that are very effective in treating ADHD and bringing patients significant symptom relief. However, finding the right medication is not always easy. 

Different medications can have different side effects that you may not tolerate and other medications may simply not work or be fully effective in treating your ADHD symptoms. If you feel like your medication isn’t helping, genetic testing may be helpful. Such testing involves using a DNA swab test to identify an effective ADHD medication. 

While genetic testing is a great option for those who can afford it, it isn’t something that’s available to everyone. Medical professionals are often able to determine the most effective ADHD medication for you based on your symptoms, medical history, and more. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about genetic testing, how it could help you identify the right medication, and any possible drawbacks. 

At Klarity, we partner with ADHD specialists who offer personalized treatment plans, including medication prescriptions (if applicable). To connect with a licensed healthcare provider for immediate, affordable online ADHD treatment, take our free 2-minute evaluation

Signs Your ADHD Medication Is Not Working

How do you know if your prescribed dose of ADHD medication is not working? The first clue it that your symptoms aren’t improving. Or your side effects may be intense or not getting better over time. There are a number of signs that may indicate that you’re not taking the right medication:

  • Worsening Mental Health: Adult patients with ADHD often also suffer from anxiety.  Having ADHD itself can actually make you prone to anxiety, and some researchers believe that those with ADHD may be genetically predisposed to developing anxiety.  

Some of the medications used to treat ADHD—stimulants—can actually make anxiety worse. Your medication may make you feel jittery, shaky, nervous, or as if your heart is racing. If you become anxious or feel your anxiety worsening after taking your ADHD medication, it is time to speak with your medical provider.

  • Intolerable Side Effects: While the stimulant class of ADHD drugs can help you focus, get organized, and feel self-motivated to complete tasks, they can also cause side effects that can be significant for some individuals.

Insomnia, decreased appetite, and weight loss are some of the side effects seen with ADHD medications. If you are constantly struggling to sleep and/or have lost all appetite or desire to eat, you may need to change your medication.

  • Your medication is not controlling your ADHD symptoms: If you notice that your ADHD symptoms have not improved or are only slightly better since you started taking your medication, it may be time for your doctor to adjust your medication dosage or to try an alternative medication.
  • Your ADHD symptoms have returned: Often, a medication that once controlled your ADHD symptoms can begin to be less effective. Your body may have developed a tolerance to the medication you are using.

This is perfectly normal and you may require a higher dosage or a switch in medication.  Do not do this by yourself. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any changes.

  • Your ADHD medications do not “work for long enough” or “work for longer that I want.”  Generally, as regards how quickly they release into the bloodstream and the duration of their effect, ADHD medications interact with your body in one of two ways.

Some medications are absorbed into the bloodstream immediately and provide a relatively short duration of symptom relief (4-6 hours), while others release into the bloodstream over an extended period of time and provide longer periods of symptom relief (8-12 hours).

Ready for the next step in your mental health journey? Book an appointment with a licensed provider on Klarity today.

Benefits of Genetic Testing for ADHD Medication

ADHD is a complex medical condition, with symptoms that vary from individual to individual.  There are many different medications that can be used to relieve these symptoms and choosing the right medication for you may not be simple. Genetic testing for ADHD medication may be able to help both you and your health care provider with this process. 

Find Effective ADHD Medication

Genetic testing for ADHD medication, i.e. dna swab test for ADHD medication, is simple and painless. A DNA swab is used to collect your saliva for DNA analysis. 

This test will analyze your DNA and provide information about the enzymes in your body that help metabolize, or break down, ADHD medications. By knowing about these specific enzymes in your body, your healthcare provider will be able to know how your body may react to any given medication.

No Trial and Error

Genetic testing for ADHD medication may allow you to avoid the trial and error associated with starting, stopping, and switching new medications. In this way, you may avoid the time-consuming and frustrating aspects of this process and get symptom relief more quickly. 

Avoid Harmful Drug Interactions

Using genetic testing may help your doctor understand how your body will metabolize any given medication. This information will help direct medication choices and may help you to avoid harmful drug side effects or interactions. 

Drawbacks of Genetic Testing for ADHD Medication

Pharmacogenomics, using DNA analysis to understand how a patient’s body will interact with medications, is a new and emerging field and with an ever-growing body of scientific research to delineate its use. As such, genetic tests for ADHD medications is not yet considered standard of care and may result in additional costs for patients.

It’s important to note that genetic testing is mostly used for depression and anxiety medications since there are many medications from the same class of drugs (SSRI/ SNRI).

Genetic Testing Can Be Expensive

Still in its infancy, genetic testing for ADHD medication is not yet widely used. As these tests are more extensively researched and developed, they may become more frequently used and it is possible that more insurance companies will cover the costs. 

Some insurance companies do already cover the costs as a preventive testing benefit—check with your insurance company to see if genetic testing for ADHD medication is covered.

Lack of Genetic Medication Test Research

Research on genetic testing for medication suitability is a growing field. While there is currently no single genetic test that is considered standard of care, you can discuss options with your healthcare provider.

What Should I Look for in a Genetic ADHD Test?

If your doctor recommends you take a DNA swab test for ADHD medication selection, you will want to find a comprehensive test. A test that analyzes a large array of your genes and how they will affect your body’s response to ADHD medications will help your doctor pick an effective medication and avoid harmful side effects.

How Much Does a Genetic ADHD Test Cost?

According to surveys conducted by the National Institutes of Health, the cost for genetic testing for mental health associated medications ranges from $100 to $2,000 per test. Often, the more expensive tests are covered by insurance companies, whereas less expensive tests are paid for directly by the patient.  

The cost of a test does not necessarily correlate with the quality of a test. DIscussing your testing options with an experienced healthcare professional will allow you to pick the best and most cost-effective test for you. 

Is Genetic Testing for ADHD Medication Covered by Insurance?

Genetic testing for ADHD medication may be covered fully or partially by your insurance company. As research in pharmacogenetics advances and this type of testing becomes part of the standard of care for ADHD, more and more insurance companies are likely to start covering these costs. Check with your insurance provider to learn whether these costs are covered.

Is There a Genetic Test to Diagnose ADHD?

Unfortunately, genetic testing has not yet advanced to the point of providing a diagnostic test for ADHD. While research has shown that genetics are involved in the etiology of ADHD, neurological conditions are not always easy to detect genetically as environmental factors can play a significant role in the development of these mental health conditions. 

How Klarity Helps Optimize Your ADHD Medications

If you experience ADHD symptoms, Klarity can connect you with a provider who can discuss your options for medication and genetic testing with you. 

You deserve to experience relief from your symptoms with the right ADHD medication and without enduring long waitlists or inconvenient commutes to an office. The licensed healthcare providers on our platform offer convenient online diagnosis and mental health treatment, if applicable.

Take a free self evaluation to get connected with a medical professional who can advise you on whether genetic testing to find the right ADHD treatment could be a good option for you. 


David Brendel, MD, Ph.D., 5 Signs It’s Time to Find a New Adult ADHD Treatment,

Stephen V. Faraone & Henrik Larsson, Genetics of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,  Molecular Psychiatry  volume 24, pages 562–575 (2019)

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