Medicines for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
Information about this medicine
What are the most important things you need to know about your medicines?
Make sure you know about each of the medicines you take. This includes why you take it, how to take it, what you can expect while you're taking it, and any warnings about the medicine.
The information provided here is general. So be sure to read the information that came with your medicine. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
Why are medicines for ADHD used?
Medicines are used to help control the symptoms of ADHD. Symptoms include:
- Trouble paying attention.
- Trouble sitting still for even a short time. This is called hyperactivity.
- Acting before thinking. Teens and adults may make quick decisions that have a long-term impact on their lives.
Most often, stimulant medicines are used to treat ADHD. Nonstimulants may also be used to help control symptoms.
What are some examples of medicines for ADHD?
Here are some examples of medicines for ADHD. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.
- dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
- lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
- methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate CD, Methylin, Ritalin)
- mixed salts amphetamine (Adderall)
- atomoxetine (Strattera)
- clonidine (Kapvay)
- guanfacine (Intuniv)
These are not complete lists of medicines for ADHD.
How do medicines for ADHD work?
Medicines for ADHD affect certain chemicals in the brain. This can help with symptoms of ADHD.
What about side effects?
All medicines can cause side effects. Many people don't have side effects. And minor side effects sometimes go away after a while.
But sometimes side effects can be a problem or can be serious.
If you're having problems with side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change to a different medicine.
Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of side effects, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
Cautions about medicines for ADHD
General cautions for all medicines include the following:
- Allergic reactions: All medicines can cause a reaction. This can sometimes be an emergency. Before you take any new medicine, tell the doctor or pharmacist about any past allergic reactions you've had.
- Drug interactions: Sometimes one medicine may keep another medicine from working well. Or you may get a side effect you didn't expect. Medicines may also interact with certain foods or drinks, like grapefruit juice and alcohol. Some interactions can be dangerous.
- Harm to unborn babies and newborns: If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the medicines you take could harm your baby.
- Other health problems: Before taking a medicine, be sure your doctor or pharmacist knows about all your health problems. Other health problems may affect your medicine. Or the medicine for one health problem may affect another health problem.
Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. That information will help prevent serious problems.
Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of warnings, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
Current as of: January 31, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine