See a comprehensive list of medications and medication types.
Part 1 of 4: Overview
Treating Attention Deficit
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder. It causes a range of difficulties including:
- problems concentrating
- inability to finish tasks
Doctors often prescribe medications to decrease ADHD symptoms. Just as every case differs, not every person will take the same medications. Treatment approaches can also vary between children and adults. It’s important to discuss all ADHD treatment options with your doctor to gain the best results.
Find out if your ADHD medication is working »
Part 2 of 4: Stimulants
Stimulants are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD. You might hear this class of drug referred to as central nervous stimulant (CNS) medications. Stimulants increase dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain to improve concentration while also decreasing fatigue. Stimulants are often the first course of medications used for ADHD treatment.
Amphetamines are used as stimulants for ADHD. Brand names include:
These medications include amphetamine, dextroamphetamine or lisdexamfetamine. Several are available in extended release form.
Methamphetamine is related to ephedrine and amphetamine, with CNS stimulant activity, which reduces appetite and can raise blood pressure. In ADHD, its mechanism of action is unknown. These tablets are taken one to two times daily.
Methylphenidate blocks the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine into neurons and is a mild stimulant. Brand names include:
- Methylin (liquid and chewable methylphenidate)
- Quillivant (extended release liquid methylphenidate)
- Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
Part 3 of 4: Non-Stimulants
Non-stimulants affect the brain differently than stimulants. Though these drugs affect neurotransmitters, they don’t increase dopamine levels. It also generally takes longer to see results. Non-stimulants come in a variety of classes. They might be used when stimulants prove unsafe, ineffective, or for a person who wants to avoid side effects of stimulants.
Atomoxetine is not a stimulant. It prolongs the action of norepinephrine in the brain. It does not need to be tapered when it is discontinued. It is long acting, taken just once a day.
Clonidine is used as a treatment for high blood pressure, and also to treat ADHD. The extended release form is Kapvay. Clonidine is used to reduce hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and distractibility. Since it is used to treat high blood pressure, patients taking it for ADHD may experience lightheadedness from reduced blood pressure.
Guanfacine is traditionally prescribed for high blood pressure in adults. Only the brand-name Intuiv may be used for ADHD in children. It may be help with memory and behavioral inhibition. It is helpful for improving aggression and hyperactivity, and is used as a single drug treatment for ADHD.
Part 4 of 4: Antidepressants
Antidepressants are not FDA-approved to treat ADHD, although some patients may have complex diagnoses and they may be prescribed these drugs along with ADHD medications.