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ADHD Medications (cont.)

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Are any side effects associated with ADHD medications?

Side effects associated with ADHD medications are primarily related to the group of medications to which the medication is related. However, like any other psychiatric medication, they may uncommonly cause negative changes in mood or behavior, including suicidal thoughts or actions. For example, stimulants are known to be a group that can decrease appetite and weight, cause stomach upset, headaches, and insomnia as well as raise blood pressure, uncommonly unmask tics, and rarely cause psychosis. While there has been concern expressed that stimulant medication may decrease physical growth of children who take it, that tends to be uncommon and only amounts to a decrease of ½ to 1 inch in children who do experience that side effect.

When taken in excess or snorted, stimulants that treat ADHD can produce euphoria and result in addiction. Stimulant abuse has increased over the past four years, in apparent parallel to the decrease in teens of perceived risk of abusing these substances.

Serious but uncommon side effects that can be associated with stimulant medications include sudden death, stroke, and heart attack. While those usually occur when stimulants are abused, people who have a preexisting heart problem are particularly at risk.

Nonstimulant medications like Strattera, Intuniv, and Kapvay may cause drowsiness and tiredness, with Intuniv tending to cause those side effects 12 hours after it is taken as opposed to Strattera and Kapvay, which may cause drowsiness within an hour after being taken. Tenex and Intuniv (guanfacine) and Catapres and Kapvay (clonidine), both effective at treating high blood pressure, may drop blood pressure to the point of causing dizziness and palpitations or decrease the heart rate. They have also been known to cause decreased appetite, headache, stomach upset, nausea, dry mouth, constipation, and irritability. While other mood changes, including suicidal thoughts, have been documented with the use of Strattera, people taking any psychiatric medication should be monitored for the possibility of suicide, given that any psychiatric medication by definition is designed to alter brain chemistry. In contrast, Strattera may slightly increase blood pressure. Strattera also has been known to cause dry mouth, insomnia, decreased appetite, constipation, decreased libido, dizziness, and sweating as side effects.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/6/2013

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