Medicines are used to help control the
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):
impulsivity, and inattention. The American Academy of
Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines recommend medicine and/or behavior therapy to treat
children who have ADHD.4
Children should be closely watched after they start
medicines. The doctor can assess whether your child is receiving the correct dose. Side
effects usually decrease after a few weeks on the medicines. Or the dosage can
be lowered to offset side effects.
Be sure that medicine for ADHD is taken consistently. You will also need to
keep track of the effects of the medicine and communicate closely with your
- ADHD: Should My Child Take Medicine for ADHD?
Medicines to treat ADHD include:
- Stimulants. These medicines include amphetamine (for example, Adderall or Dexedrine) and methylphenidate (for example, Concerta,
Metadate CD, or Ritalin). Stimulants usually reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity
and improve focus.
(Strattera). This is an approved nonstimulant medicine for children, teens, and adults.
- Clonidine (Kapvay) and guanfacine (Intuniv). These are nonstimulant medicines approved to treat aggression, inattention, and impulsivity not controlled by
other ADHD medicines.
- Antidepressants. Certain antidepressants are sometimes also recommended.
Most often, stimulant
medicines are used to treat ADHD. These medicines are effective for people of
all ages. But more research is needed on how adults respond. In general,
stimulant medicines improve symptoms in about 70 out of 100 people who have
ADHD.1 There are often quick and dramatic improvements
Taking medicine for ADHD doesn't increase the risk for substance
abuse later. Some studies have found less alcohol and drug abuse in children and teens with ADHD who had taken stimulant medicines than in those who didn't receive medicine.5
If stimulant medicines have bothersome side effects or aren't effective, your child's doctor might recommend
a nonstimulant medicine such as atomoxetine (Strattera), clonidine (Kapvay), or guanfacine (Intuniv). These medicines may be used alone or in combination with stimulant medicines.
What to think about
Medicines may also be used to treat other mental health
conditions that often occur along with
ADHD. One condition is anxiety disorders.
If your child is taking medicine for ADHD, consider:
- All of a child's behavior
problems may not be controlled by medicine. And it hasn't been proved that medicine improves the long-term
educational, occupational, and social functioning of a person who has
- Stimulant medicines may be related to slower growth in children, especially in the first year of taking the medicine. But most children seem to catch up in height and weight by the time they are adults. Your doctor will keep track of your child's growth and will watch for problems.1
- Some medicines used to treat ADHD (such as stimulants) can
be abused. Make sure that your child knows not to sell or give medicine to other
people. An adult should supervise the medicine.
- Some parents worry about their children becoming addicted to
stimulants. Research has shown that these medicines, when taken correctly, don't cause dependence.