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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Treatment Overview

Which medications are used to treat ADHD in children? continued...

The antidepressant Wellbutrin has been shown to be beneficial in treating ADHD. Wellbutrin can be an alternate treatment when tolerance or abuse of a stimulant is a problem.

Antidepressants have a positive effect on all three of the major components of ADHD: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. They are another option for children whose response to stimulant medication has been inadequate. They also are used as an alternative for children who experience unacceptable side effects, such as tics or insomnia, from stimulant medication.

Studies have shown there are different types of antidepressant medications that can be useful in treating ADHD. They include:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants are helpful in both children and adults with ADHD. These antidepressants are also relatively inexpensive. They can, though, cause some unpleasant side effects, such as dry mouth, constipation, or urinary problems. Examples of tricyclic antidepressants include:
  • Wellbutrin is effective in treating ADHD in adults and children. It is generally well-tolerated. It also has some side effects that may be a problem with people who have anxiety, headaches, or seizures.
  • SSRIs are "Prozac type" drugs. Lexapro and Zoloft, for example, are SSRIs that have been tried.
  • Effexor and Effexor XR are newer antidepressants. They increase the levels of norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain. The drugs are effective at improving mood and concentration in adults as well as children and teens.
  • MAO inhibitors are a group of antidepressants that can treat ADHD. But they are rarely used because they have significant and sometimes dangerous side effects. They can also interact dangerously with foods and other medications. They may be beneficial for people for whom other medications have failed. Examples include Nardil or Parnate.

Stimulant medications may be combined with an antidepressant medication for some children. The combination seems to work well for the child who has both ADHD and a condition such as an anxiety disorder, depression, or another mood disorder.

Catapres and guanfacine are drugs normally taken to treat high blood pressure. Newer long-acting forms of these medications are now available as Kapvay (clonidine) and Intuniv (guanafacine). These medications also have been shown to be of some benefit for ADHD. Sometimes they're used alone or sometimes in combination with stimulant drugs. The drugs can improve mental functioning as well as behavior in people with ADHD.

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