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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Drug Combinations to Treat ADHD in Children

Ask 10 different parents how they treat their children's ADHD and you're likely to get 10 different answers. That's because treatment for ADHD is personalized. Depending on the child, treatment can include:

  • A single medicine
  • Combination of medicines
  • Medicine plus behavioral therapy

Often, medicine treatment for ADHD starts with a stimulant drug, such as:

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But stimulants don't work for every child with ADHD. If that's the case with your child, the doctor might switch to another type of medicine.

Your child's doctor may also add another medicine to the stimulant drug or prescribe a combination of different medicines. This is called adjunctive therapy.

Studies show that when added to a stimulant, certain non-stimulants can improve the effectiveness of treatment.

Three non-stimulant medications are FDA-approved to treat ADHD in children:

Here's a closer look at these drugs and others that are used as part of adjunctive therapy:


Strattera was the first non-stimulant drug approved to treat ADHD. It works by increasing amounts of the chemical norepinephrine, which is found in the brain. This helps lessen ADHD symptoms such as hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

Strattera is approved for kids ages 6 and older.

Strattera can be prescribed alone. Or, it can be added to the stimulant drugs as an adjunctive treatment.

Side effects from Strattera can include:

These side effects tend to be less pronounced with Strattera than with traditional stimulants.

In rare cases, Strattera has been linked to heart or liver problems. Because it’s chemically similar to antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications, the drug also carries a warning from the FDA about the risk of suicidal thoughts in children and teenagers.

Let your doctor know if your child has suicidal thoughts before taking this drug. Also, watch for unusual behavior changes while your child is on this medicine and report them to your doctor.

Alpha-2 Agonists

Two drugs called alpha-2 agonists, in extended release form, are now formally approved to treat kids with ADHD:

  • Kapvay (clonidine ER)
  • Intuniv (guanfacine ER)

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