The Basics of ADHD
Stimulants for ADHD Treatment
Stimulant medications (or psychostimulants) have been used to successfully treat ADHD symptoms for many years. Stimulants are used to treat both moderate and severe ADHD in adults and children over age 6, with the exception of Adderall, Dexedrine, and Dextrostat, which can be safely used in children as young as age 3.
Stimulants used to treat ADHD include:
- Adderall, Adderall XR
- Dexedrine, Dexedrine Spansule Capsules, Dextrostat
- Focalin, Focalin XR
- Metadate CD, Metadate ER
- Methylin, Methylin ER
- Ritalin, Ritalin LA, Ritalin SR
When used long term, stimulants carry a risk of drug dependence and abuse and should be used cautiously in anyone with a history of drug dependence or alcoholism.
Nonstimulant Drugs and ADHD
Strattera (atomoxetine), Catapres and Kapvay (clonidine), and Intuniv and Tenex (guanfacine) are some of the nonstimulant drugs used to treat ADHD in children, adolescents and adults. With the exception of Strattera, all of these medications are normally taken to treat high blood pressure, but they have been shown to be of some benefit for ADHD when used alone or in combination with stimulant drugs. These drugs decrease the heart rate and relax the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely.
Strattera (atomoxetine) is in a class of medications called selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. It works by increasing the levels of norepinephrine, a natural substance in the brain that is needed to control behavior.
Note: Strattera carries a warning about the increased risk of suicidal thinking in children and adolescents. Doctors are advised to watch for this behavior and alter medications as needed.
Antidepressant Therapy for ADHD
Antidepressant therapy for ADHD is sometimes used as the initial treatment in children or adults who also suffer from significant depression. Antidepressants, however, are generally not as effective as stimulants or the newer nonstimulant treatments at improving attention span and concentration. It also may take 2 to 4 weeks for the full benefits of antidepressants to appear.
Note: The FDA has determined that antidepressant medications increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents with depression. If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your health care provider.