“Attention-deficit drugs increase concentration in the short term, which is why they work so well for college students cramming for exams. But when given to children over long periods of time, they neither improve school achievement nor reduce behavior problems. The drugs can also have serious side effects... Many parents who take their children off the drugs find that behavior worsens, which most likely confirms their belief that the drugs work. But the behavior worsens because the children's bodies have become adapted [because the drugs are habit-forming] to the drug. Adults may have similar reactions if they suddenly cut back on coffee, or stop smoking.”
Newer medications help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Some of these sleep-inducing drugs, which bind to the same receptors in the brain as do benzodiazepines, include Lunesta , Sonata , and Ambien . They are somewhat less likely than benzodiazepines to be habit-forming, but over time can still sometimes cause physical dependence. They can work quickly to increase drowsiness and sleep. Another sleep aid, called Rozerem , acts differently from other sleep medicines by affecting a brain hormone called melatonin, and is not habit-forming. Belsomra is another unique sleep aid that affects a brain chemical called orexin , and is not addictive or habit-forming.
But not every side effect is a bad one. Some are downright welcome. Take finasteride . Introduced in 1992 to treat noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland , it was found to regrow hair (and is marketed for that purpose under the name Propecia). Today, millions of men use a low dose of finasteride to treat male pattern baldness . Similarly, minoxidil , originally marketed as an oral tablet for high blood pressure , was found to grow hair in those using it. Today, as a topical lotion or foam, it is a popular over-the-counter remedy for baldness.