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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children: Treatment

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

Atomoxetine affects levels of the brain chemical norepinephrine. Clonidine and guanfacine affect certain brain receptors. They improve concentration and impulse control.

Other medication options include clonidine hcl (Catapres) and guanfacine hcl (Tenex). They are drugs normally taken to treat high blood pressure. These medications also have been shown to help with ADHD. Sometimes they're used alone or in combination with stimulant drugs.

Antidepressants can work on all three of the major components of ADHD: inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. They are an option for children who haven’t done well enough on a stimulant alone. Taking a stimulant along with an antidepressant also seems to work well for a child who has both ADHD and a condition such as depression, an anxiety disorder, or another mood disorder.

Antidepressants include:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants. These are helpful for children with ADHD. Adults with ADHD also use them. They are also relatively inexpensive. But they can cause some unpleasant side effects, such as dry mouth, constipation, or urinary problems. Examples of tricyclic antidepressants include:
  • Nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor)
  • Imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin). It's in its own class of antidepressants. It treats ADHD children and adults and is generally well-tolerated. Wellbutrin can be an alternate treatment when children or teens don’t do well with stimulants or if stimulant abuse is a problem. But it does have some side effects that may be a problem with people who have anxiety, headaches, or seizures.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). They are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants for people with depression. They change the way your brain uses the hormone serotonin. Escitalopram (Lexapro) and sertraline (Zoloft) are SSRIs that have been tried for ADHD.
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor). It's a newer type of antidepressant that increases the levels of the hormones norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain. It improves mood and concentration in children and teens.

MAO inhibitors. 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 helpful for people who haven’t had success with other medications. Examples include phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate).

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