Nonstimulant Therapy and Other ADHD Drugs

While stimulants are usually the first choice for ADHD, they're not for everyone. In some people, they cause intolerable side effects; in others, they just don't work very well. The good news is that other effective options for ADHD treatment are available.

Nonstimulant Therapy for ADHD

Two nonstimulant ADHD treatments have been approved by the FDA:

  • Strattera was the first nonstimulant drug approved for ADHD. It's now used in both children and adults.
  • Intuniv is approved for ADHD in children ages 6 to 17.
  • Kapvay is approved for ADHD in children ages 6 to 17.

How Do Nonstimulants for ADHD Work?

Strattera seems to increase the amount of norepinephrine, an important brain chemical. This appears to help ADHD by increasing attention span and reducing impulsive behavior and hyperactivity.

Intuniv and Kapvay have an effect on certain receptors in the brain. Studies show that they reduce distractibility and improve attention, working memory, and impulse control. Intuniv is an extended release medicine that contains the same active ingredient as Tenex, a blood pressure drug that's been used as an off-label ADHD treatment for years. Kapvay contains the same active ingredients seen in some types of blood pressure medications known as clonidine. These medications work on the brain to help control heart rate and blood pressure.

Nonstimulants have some advantages over many stimulants used for ADHD. For instance, nonstimulants:

  • Don't cause agitation or sleeplessness
  • Are not controlled substances and don't pose the same risk of abuse or addiction
  • Have a longer-lasting and smoother effect than many stimulants, which can take effect and wear off abruptly

What Are the Side Effects of Nonstimulants?

Of course, nonstimulants do have some potential side effects of their own.

Strattera Side Effects. The most common side effects of Strattera are:

Other, less common risks from Strattera include:

  • Jaundice and liver problems. If you develop yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, contact your doctor right away.
  • Suicidal thinking. There's a possibility that Strattera -- like many antidepressantdrugs -- may slightly increase the risk of suicidal thinking in teenagers.
  • Slowed growth in children. Your doctor will probably keep a close eye on your child's height and weight.
  • Priapism, or erections that last more than four hours.
  • Serious allergic reactions. While rare, some people develop rashes, hives, or swelling.


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