The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, and according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.

Medications for ADHD can help control hyperactive and impulsive behavior and increase attention span.

Prescription Medications

    
  • Stimulants
  • Antidepressants to treat associated depression and anxiety
  • Antipsychotics
  • Atomoxetine
  • Modafinil
  • Clonidine to treat impulsivity
  • Guanfacine intuniv
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Warning

    The FDA has directed all manufacturers of ADHD medications to notify people about a slight increased risk of cardiovascular and psychiatric side effects. There have been reports of sudden death in those with underlying serious heart problems and reports of stroke and heart attack in adults with certain risk factors.

    Recent research though, has not shown a clear link between stimulants and sudden death, heart attack, and stroke. There is a slight increased risk (about 1 per 1,000) for psychiatric side effects, such as hallucinations, paranoia, and mania, even in those without previous psychiatric problems.

    The stimulants that are the focus of the labeling are:

        
  • Amphetamine
  • Methylphenidate
  • Methamphetamine
  • Detroamphetamine
  • Dexmethylphenidate
  • Methylphenidate
  • Lisdexamfetamine
  • Atomoxetine
  • Because of the concern of serious heart problems, the American Heart Association suggests that children have an electrocardiogram (EKG) before starting stimulant medication for ADHD.

    Talk to your doctor about these warnings before you take the medication.

    Stimulants

    Common names include:

        
  • Methylphenidate
  • Dextroamphetamine
  • Amphetamine
  • Methylphenidate patch
  • Lisdexamfetamine—this medication can be used to treat children aged 6-12 years and adults
  • Dexmethylphenidate
  • Stimulants are the most common treatment for ADHD. These medications work mostly by changing the action of a brain chemical (dopamine), which results in increased activity in parts of the brain that appear to be underactive in children with ADHD. When used properly to treat ADHD, they produce a calming effect that promotes concentration, rather than a stimulating effect. However, they also have the potential to become addictive. Your child’s doctor will prescribe the lowest effective dose, monitor the response closely, and stop treatment occasionally to determine the need for on-going treatment.

    Common side effects of stimulants include:

        
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache
  • Reduced appetite
  • Irritability
  • Rage
  • Confusion
  • Shakiness
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Possible decrease in growth rate
  • Antidepressants

    There are numerous kinds of antidepressants, and new ones appear frequently. Common names include:

        
  • Bupropion
  • Fluoxetine
  • Sertraline
  • Doxepin
  • Protriptyline
  • Amitriptyline
  • Imipramine
  • Desipramine
  • These medications work mostly by changing the action of 2 brain chemicals, norepinephrine or serotonin. Most of these medications act on both chemicals, but some act mainly or exclusively on only one. All are used to treat depression.

    Common side effects include:

        
  • Dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sedation
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Urine retention
  • Blurred vision
  • Mental changes
  • Side effects of bupropion include:

        
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Antipsychotics

    Antipsychotics may be used to treat children and young adults who have aggressive behavior. Examples of antipsychotics include:

        
  • Risperidone
  • Quetiapine
  • Common side effects include:

        
  • Sedation
  • Constipation
  • Urine retention
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Mental changes
  • Muscle spasms
  • Restlessness
  • Sexual problems
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Weight gain
  • Atomoxetine

    Atomoxetine is not a stimulant, but prevents the inactivation of norepinephrine.

    Note: There have been a small number of reports of severe liver injury associated with atomoxetine, which reversed after stopping the medication. Atomoxetine should be discontinued in those who exhibit jaundice or laboratory evidence of liver injury.

    Common side effects include:

        
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Slowed growth rate
  • Mild increase in blood pressure and heart rate
  • Modafinil

    Modafinil is used to promote wakefulness in people with narcolepsy, a neurological condition. It has also been somewhat effective in patients with ADHD.

    Common side effects include:

        
  • Insomnia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Clonidine

    Clonidine acts in the brain to stimulate certain areas, but not others, in a fashion similar to the stimulants. It is also used to treat Tourette syndrome . Morning dosing increases the sedative effect; bedtime dosing minimizes it. It is also available in a patch that provides a steady dose for a week at a time.

    Clonidine is relatively safe except in people with certain forms of heart and circulatory disease.

    Possible side effects include:

        
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation
  • Stomach upset
  • Mental changes
  • Guanfacine

    Guanfacine, which is also used to treat high blood pressure, seems to help with attention and impulsivity problems.

    Guanfacine is available as an extended-release formulation, which only has to be taken once a day (usually at bedtime). The medication should not be taken with a meal that is high in fat. The tablets should be swallowed whole (not chewed, broken, or crushed).

    It may take 2 weeks before the medication produces positive effects. Never take guanfacine with other preparations that contain the same medication.

    Possible side effects include:

        
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness, sleepiness, blurred vision, change in the ability to think clearly
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Sexual problems
  • Special Considerations

    If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:

        
  • Take the medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medication.
  • Plan ahead for refills if you need them.
  • Do not share your prescription medication with anyone.
  • Medications can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor if you are taking more than one medication, including over-the-counter products and supplements.
  • When to Contact Your Doctor

    Contact your doctor or mental health professional if:

        
  • Expected results of treatment are not happening
  • Unexpected results occur
  • Drug side effects are bothering you
  • You want to change the medication