The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, and according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
Medications for ADHD can help control hyperactive and impulsive behavior and increase attention span.
The Food and Drug Administration has directed all manufacturers of ADHD drugs to notify patients about potential cardiovascular and psychiatric side effects. Patients or their parents should read the information before taking the medication and should speak with their doctors about the warnings.
There have been reports of sudden death in patients with underlying serious heart problems and reports of stroke and heart attack in adults with certain risk factors. There is also a slight increased risk (about 1 per 1,000) for psychiatric side effects, such as hallucinations, paranoia, and mania, even in patients without previous psychiatric problems.
The drugs that are the focus of the revised labeling are:
For specific information on each drug go to: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm107918.htm.
Because of the rare risk of serious heart problems, the American Heart Association suggests that children have an electrocardiogram (ECG) before starting stimulant medication for ADHD.
Common names include:
Stimulants are the most common treatment for ADHD. These drugs increase activity in parts of the brain that appear to be underactive in children with ADHD. When used properly to treat ADHD, they produce a calming effect that promotes concentration, rather than a stimulating effect. However, they also have the potential to become addictive. Your child’s doctor will prescribe the lowest effective dose, monitor the response closely, and stop treatment occasionally to determine the need for on-going treatment.
Common side effects of stimulants include:
There are numerous kinds of antidepressants, and new ones appear frequently. Common names include:
All of these drugs prevent the inactivation of natural chemical stimulants in the body, either norepinephrine (noradrenalin) or serotonin. Most of these drugs act on both chemicals, but some act mainly or exclusively on only one. All are used to treat depression.
Common side effects include:
Side effects of bupropion include:
Atomoxetine is not a stimulant but prevents the inactivation of norepinephrine.
Note: There have been a small number of reports of severe liver injury associated with atomoxetine, which reversed after stopping the drug. Atomoxetine should be discontinued in patients who exhibit jaundice or laboratory evidence of liver injury.
Common side effects include:
Common side effects include:
Clonidine acts in the brain to stimulate certain areas, but not others, in a fashion similar to the stimulants. It is also used to treat Tourette syndrome . Morning dosing increases the sedative effect; bedtime dosing minimizes it. It is also available in a patch that provides a steady dose for a week at a time.
Clonidine is relatively safe except in patients with certain forms of heart and circulatory disease.
Possible side effects include:
Follow these general guidelines when taking medications:
Contact your physician or mental healthcare professional if:
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/healthinformation/adhdmenu.cfm . Accessed March 31, 2007.
Biederman J, Faraone SV. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Lancet. 2005;366:237-248.
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder website. Available at: http://www.chadd.org .
Dexedrine: prescribing information. Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/safety/2006/Aug_PIs/Dexedrine_PI.pdf . Accessed on April 1, 2007.
Drug Facts and Comparisons. 56th ed. Facts & Comparisons; 2001.
Lindsay SE, Gudelsky GA, Heaton PC. Use of modafinil for the treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Ann Pharmacother. 2006;40:1829-1833.
Moore DP, Jefferson JW. Handbook of Medical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2004.
Rappley MD. Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. N Engl J Med. 2005;352:165-173.
¹4/30/2008 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Vetter V, Elia J, Erickson C, et al. Cardiovascular monitoring of children and adolescents with heart disease receiving stimulant drugs. Circulation. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/reprint/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.189473 . Accessed April 30, 2008.
²4/30/2008 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : FDA approval letter. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/foi/appletter/2008/021977s001ltr.pdf . Accessed April 30, 2008.
Last reviewed December 2009 by Ryan Estevez, MD, PhD, MPH
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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