Stimulants are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD. They’re often the first course of drugs used for ADHD treatment.
You might hear this class of drugs called central nervous system (CNS) stimulant medications. They work by increasing the amounts of the hormones called dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.
This effect improves concentration and decreases the fatigue that’s common with ADHD.
Many brand-name stimulants are now only available as generic versions, which cost less and may be preferred by some insurance companies. However, other drugs are only available as brand-name products.
Amphetamines are stimulants used for ADHD. They include:
They come in immediate-release (a drug that’s released into your body right away) and extended-release (a drug that’s released into your body slowly) oral forms. Brand names of these drugs include:
- Adderall XR (generic available)
- Dexedrine (generic available)
- Dyanavel XR
- ProCentra (generic available)
Methamphetamine is related to ephedrine and amphetamine. It also works by stimulating the CNS.
It’s not known exactly how this drug works to help ADHD symptoms. Like other stimulants, methamphetamine may increase the amounts of hormones like dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain.
It can reduce your appetite and increase your blood pressure. This drug comes as an oral tablet taken once or twice per day.
Methylphenidate works by blocking the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine in your brain. This helps increase levels of these hormones.
It’s also a stimulant. It comes in immediate-release, extended-release, and controlled-release oral forms.
It also comes as a transdermal patch under the brand name Daytrana. Brand names include:
- Aptensio XR (generic available)
- Metadate ER (generic available)
- Concerta (generic available)
- Ritalin (generic available)
- Ritalin LA (generic available)
- Methylin (generic available)
Dexmethylphenidate is another stimulant for ADHD that’s similar to methylphenidate. It’s available as the brand-name medication Focalin.
Nonstimulants affect the brain differently than stimulants do. These drugs also affect neurotransmitters, but they don’t increase dopamine levels. In general, it takes longer to see results from these drugs than from stimulants.
These drugs come in several classes. A doctor might prescribe them when stimulants aren’t safe or are ineffective. They may also prescribe them if a person wants to avoid the side effects of stimulants.
Atomoxetine (Strattera) blocks the reuptake of norepinephrine in the brain. This lets norepinephrine work longer.
The drug comes as an oral form you take once or twice per day. This drug is also available as a generic.
Atomoxetine has caused liver damage in a small number of people. If you have signs of liver problems while taking this drug, your doctor will check your liver function.
Signs of liver problems include:
- a tender or swollen abdomen
- yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes
Clonidine ER (Kapvay)
Clonidine ER (Kapvay) is used to reduce hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and distractibility in people with ADHD. Other forms of clonidine are used to treat high blood pressure.
Because it also lowers blood pressure, people taking it for ADHD may feel lightheaded.
This drug is available as a generic.
Guanfacine ER (Intuniv)
Guanfacine is normally prescribed for high blood pressure in adults. This drug is available as a generic, but only the time-release version and its generics are approved for use in children with ADHD.
The time-release version is called Guanfacine ER (Intuniv).
This drug may help with memory and behavioral problems. It may also help improve aggression and hyperactivity.