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Nonstimulant Therapy and Other ADHD Drugs

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Antidepressant Drugs for ADHD

Several types of antidepressant drugs can be used to treat ADHD. Antidepressant therapy for ADHD is sometimes used as the treatment of choice for children or adults who have ADHD and depression.

Antidepressants, however, are generally not as effective as stimulants or nonstimulants at improving attention span and concentration.

Antidepressants used for treating ADHD include the following:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as Pamelor, Aventyl, Tofranil and Norpramin, have been shown to be helpful in children and adults with ADHD, but they can cause some unpleasant side effects, such as dry mouth, constipation, or urinary problems. They are also relatively inexpensive.
  • Wellbutrin is a different type of antidepressant that is very effective in treating ADHD in adults and children. It is generally well-tolerated, but it also has some side effects that may be a problem for some people who have anxiety or seizures.
  • Effexor and Effexor XR are newer antidepressants that 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. Effexor can be used to treat ADHD, but not commonly.
  • Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors are a group of antidepressants that can treat ADHD with some benefit, but are rarely used because they have significant and sometimes dangerous side effects and can dangerously interact with foods and other medications. They may be of benefit in people where other medications have failed. Examples include Nardil or Parnate.

Note: In October 2004, The FDA determined that antidepressant medications increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders. If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your health care provider.

How Do Antidepressants Work?

Since most antidepressants work by increasing the levels of brain messenger chemicals (neurotransmitters), such as norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine, it makes sense that they might have effects similar to other ADHD stimulant and nonstimulant treatments that appear to work by similar mechanisms.

Antidepressants seem to improve attention span as well as impulse control, hyperactivity, and aggressiveness. Children and adolescents treated with antidepressants are often more willing to take direction and are less disruptive.

Antidepressants have the advantage of a low potential for abuse, and there is no evidence that they suppress growth or contribute to significant weight loss.

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