ADHD Prescription Drugs (cont.)
Louise Chang, MD
Dr. Chang completed her undergraduate degree at Stanford University and attended medical school at New York Medical College. She completed her internal medicine residency at Saint Vincent's Hospital in New York City, where she also served as a chief resident from 2001-2002. Dr. Chang is board-certified in internal medicine.
In this Article
- What are ADHD medications and how do they work?
- For what conditions are ADHD medications used?
- What are the different types of ADHD drugs?
- Are there differences among ADHD drugs?
- What are the side effects of ADHD drugs?
- What are the warnings/precautions when using ADHD drugs?
- What are the drug interactions of ADHD drugs?
- What are some examples of ADHD drugs?
What are the different types of ADHD drugs?
ADHD medications can generally be split into two categories: the stimulants and the nonstimulants. The stimulants work by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Stimulant drugs used for ADHD include various amphetamines and methylphenidates.
Atomoxetine (Strattera) works by increasing levels of another brain chemical, norepinephrine.
If primary ADHD medications and behavioral treatment have been used and not effective, other medications not FDA-approved for ADHD may be tried. Clonidine and guanfacine lower blood pressure through an action in the brain. In ADHD drug treatment, these drugs, which also cause sedation, may be especially useful in calming patients.
The tricyclic antidepressants (such as amitriptyline, imipramine, nortriptyline) affect levels of norepinephrine; bupropion (Wellbutrin) affects levels of both norepinephrine and dopamine.
Are there differences among ADHD drugs?
Although just a handful of compounds specifically target ADHD, numerous dosage forms exist. The main variable between these is duration of action -- that is, how long the drug works. Short-acting stimulant drugs usually lasts four to five hours and are usually taken two to three times a day. Long-acting versions are effective from six to eight or even 12 hours.
Atomoxetine has a 24-hour duration of action. It also differs from the stimulants in that it is not a potential drug of abuse and, therefore, not a controlled substance.
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