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ADHD Prescription Medications (cont.)

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What are the side effects of ADHD drugs?

The stimulants share common side effects. Chief among them is their potential for abuse. When doses of methylphenidate or amphetamines start low and are slowly increased, the result is a slow rise in brain dopamine levels. That pattern of therapeutic use is unlikely to trigger enticing side effects, such as euphoria. However, taken inappropriately, brain dopamine levels soar -- as does the risk for addiction.

To help prevent abuse, the government has put limits on how much of the medication can be dispensed at one time, and how often it can be dispensed.

The main side effects of stimulant medications are problems sleeping, decreased appetite, and headache. Other side effects of methylphenidates and amphetamines include:

  • Cardiac problems, including palpitations, increased heart rate, changes in blood pressure, chest pain, sudden death
  • Neurologic problems including hallucinations, psychosis, tics, Tourette's syndrome, seizure
  • Other effects such as skin rash, vision problems, nausea, growth suppression in children

The side effects associated with atomoxetine (Strattera) include:

Clonidine (Catapres) may cause the following side effects:

  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Sedation
  • Weakness

Guanfacine (Tenex) can have the following side effects:

  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue

Side effects associated with tricyclic antidepressants include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Dry mouth and nose
  • Blurry vision
  • Constipation
  • Urinary retention
  • Cognitive/memory impairment
  • Low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and possibly arrhythmias
  • Drowsiness, confusion, restlessness, dizziness
  • Sexual dysfunction

Bupropion (Wellbutrin) may produce the following side effects:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Gastrointestinal problems, including dry mouth, constipation, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, weight gain, and anorexia
  • Neurologic problems, including headache, insomnia, sedation, and agitation
  • Blurry vision
  • Tremor
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased heart rate


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