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What Medications Are Used to Treat ADD in Adolescents?

by Edward J. Lamb
  • Overview

    What Medications Are Used to Treat ADD in Adolescents?
    What Medications Are Used to Treat ADD in Adolescents?
    Attention deficit disorder, or ADD, makes it difficult for adolescents to concentrate on and complete school assignments, follow instructions and stay interested in activities that require concentration. Stimulant medications can help school-age children regain their focus, as can a drug named Strattera, antidepressants and high blood pressure medications. While ADD medications are safe and effective for most adolescents, each does have significant risks that parents should consider.
  • ADD Symptoms

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, children with ADD can exhibit any of the following behaviors: • Daydreams frequently • Does not appear to listen when spoken to • Gets confused easily • Has difficulty organizing and completing tasks • Is easily distracted • Finds it difficult to process information quickly and accurately • Finds learning new things difficult • Misses details • Moves slowly • Struggles with following instructions This inattention can become increasingly problematic as children grow older, when their schoolwork becomes more complex and they begin driving.
  • Stimulant Medications

    Several stimulant medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating ADD. These include Adderall, Dexedrine, Focalin, Vyvanse, Desoxyn, Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Ritalin and generic versions of these medications.
  • Stimulant Risks

    Stimulants can cause anxiety, headaches, insomnia, irritability and loss of appetite. Also, a small number of individuals taking stimulants to treat ADD have suffered heart attacks and strokes or died suddenly. High doses of stimulants can cause twitching and may slow growth.
  • Strattera

    The FDA has also approved Strattera, a branded version of atomoxetine, to treat ADD in adolescents. The medication works by increasing serotonin levels, much like an antidepressant.
  • Straterra Risks

    Adolescents taking Strattera have most often reported abdominal pain, decreased appetite, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting as side effects. Rarely, the drug has increased suicidal thoughts among younger patients. A medication guide handed out with each Strattera prescription cautions parents to watch for unusual changes in behavior and talk of death.
  • Other Medications

    Information on ADD from the Mayo Clinic indicates that adolescents who do not respond to stimulant or Strattera therapy may benefit from receiving an antidepressant or blood pressure medication such as clonidine (e.g., Catapres) or guanfacine (e.g., Tenex). Parents whose children take an antidepressant should watch for suicidality. Children taking clonidine may experience skin flushing and itchiness, while guanfacine may cause constipation, dizziness, dry mouth and sleepiness.

    References & Resources