ADHD Medications and their Side Effects


ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a complicated disorder with symptoms that vary depending on the individual. With ADHD cases rapidly on the rise, there are now many medications available to help children, adolescents, and adults who struggle with ADHD.

Medication is a very integral part of ADHD treatment; it can help patients manage symptoms and combat challenges that this disorder may present. But like almost all other medications, ADHD prescriptions come with their own unique set of side effects.

If your child has been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or is showing signs that they may have this condition, it is important to know as much about ADHD medications as possible. Once you have a full understanding of what all of these medications do, you will be better equipped to discuss appropriate options with your child’s doctor.

What Is Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

There are three main subgroups of ADHD: Predominantly Inattentive ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD, and Combined ADHD. Since symptoms are grouped based on predominant behaviors, the effects someone will experience depends on their subgroup.

Here are the symptoms and behaviors that come with each subgroup of ADHD:

Predominantly Inattentive ADHD – getting easily distracted, daydreaming, making silly mistakes, being unorganized, being late, having a short attention span

Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD – fidgeting, constantly moving, having high energy levels, restlessness, trouble sitting still, trouble switching in or out of sleep, acting without thinking, blurting out answers or secrets, interrupting, being accident prone

People with Combined ADHD usually experience a mixture of inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive behaviors. Other symptoms of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may include delayed social maturity, problems concentrating, and forgetfulness. However, there are also many positive effects that can come from having ADHD. Individuals who have this condition are more likely to be highly intelligent, highly enthusiastic, very creative, and emotionally sensitive.

A common behavioral disorder among children and adolescents, ADHD is usually diagnosed when children are around 7 or 8 years old. However, it is possible for symptoms to appear earlier. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder will likely persist into adulthood, but can be managed with the right medication and treatment.

Medications Prescribed for ADHD

The most widely-used types of medications for ADHD include stimulants, non-stimulants, and antidepressants. Here’s a little more about each type:

Stimulants. Used to treat moderate to severe ADHD, stimulants help you focus and ignore distractions. They are helpful for children, teens, & adults who have trouble staying present at school or work. Some stimulants are approved for children over 3, while the rest are approved for children over 6 years of age. The most common stimulants used for ADHD include:

  • Dextroamphetamine (brand name: Dexedrine, Zenzedi)
  • Dextroamphetamine & amphetamine (brand name: Adderall)
  • Methylphenidate (brand name: Methylin, Ritalin)
  • Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (brand name: Adderall XR)
  • Amphetamine sulfate (brand name: Dyanavel)
  • Lisdexamfetamine (brand name: Vyvanse)

Non-stimulants. Prescribed when stimulants don’t work or cause unwanted side effects, non-stimulant medications can improve concentration and impulse control. Unlike stimulants, which kick in rather quickly, non-stimulants take a couple of weeks to start working. Some examples of non-stimulant medications used for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder include:

  • Atomoxetine (brand name: Strattera)
  • Clonidine (brand name: Catapres, Catapres-TTS, Kapvay)
  • Guanfacine (brand name: Intuniv, Tenex)

Antidepressants. Antidepressants are sometimes used off-label to treat ADHD symptoms. Some antidepressants that are taken for ADHD include:

  • Bupropion (brand name: Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL)
  • Desipramine (brand name: Norpramin)

Side Effects of ADHD Medications

The side effects of ADHD medications vary depending on the individual and the exact medicine they use. However, there are some general side effects that people who take ADHD medication should be aware of. Stimulant medications have the potential to cause loss of appetite, weight loss, sleep problems, and crankiness. Non-stimulants may lead to fatigue, upset stomach, dry mouth, nausea, and even suicidal thoughts. Antidepressants are known to cause trouble sleeping, nausea, constipation, dry mouth, and sweating. They also come with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions.

While each type of ADHD medication has its side effects, all of the medicines listed above are considered safe for children and adults alike. As long as a doctor is monitoring your child’s progress as they use a medication, then the side effects should be relatively mild.

Treating ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

It might take time to find the right medication for your child, but it will definitely be worth it to see them living a happy, healthy life. The most effective treatment for ADHD is usually a combination of medication, behavior changes, therapy, and skills training. This combination is known as multimodal treatment. Depending on your child’s individual needs, their doctor will be able to create a treatment plan that is best for them.

For more information on ADHD medications, reach out to our team of mental health treatment representatives at Elium Health. Give us a call at 866-552-3758 or email to chat with a specialist today.


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