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ADHD and Strattera

written by: Lynn-nore Chittom • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 1/31/2011

Amidst the plethora of stimulant drug options for ADHD, there is only one non-stimulant drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Strattera. Read on to learn more about the relationship between ADHD and Strattera.

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    How Strattera Works

    Unlike most common stimulant medications for ADHD, such as Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin and Focalin, which address both dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain, Strattera targets only the norepinephrine. To be exact, Strattera is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, which means the drug prevents the brain from re-absorbing large quantities of the chemical, therefore allowing more norepinephrine to remain in the brain longer. By limiting the reuptake of this brain chemical, Strattera enables the norepinephrine to do what it was designed to, which is serve as a calming agent. The presence of a larger amount of norepinephrine in the brain, offers individuals with ADHD a reduction in stress, distractibility, and anxiety which enables them to focus and concentrate more effectively.

    This positive calming affect was the reason doctors initially made a connection between ADHD and Strattera. Originally designed as an anti-depressant, Strattera was off-labeled for ADHD until the pharmaceutical manufacturer and supplier, Eli Lily, considered remarketing it for that purpose. Strattera is the only norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States.

    Because Strattera, and its generic drug equivalent, atomoxetine, do not address dopamine levels, it is classified as a non-stimulant drug by the FDA. As such, Strattera is significantly less likely to cause addiction and is, therefore, not a controlled substance. The practical result of this is that doctors can prescribe Strattera with refills and patients do not need to revisit their physicians' offices as often to obtain new prescriptions.

    As of 2003, Strattera became officially designated by the FDA as the only non-stimulant drug recommended for ADHD. In 2009, a second non-stimulant drug, Intuniv, was approved by the FDA specifically for use with children and teens with ADHD.

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    Why Many Patients Prefer Strattera

    The calming affect of this medication is not the only positive element in the relationship between ADHD and Strattera. It also offers patients significantly fewer side effects than many of the stimulant drugs. Individuals with ADHD report fewer issues with insomina, loss of appetite, and irritability with Strattera over other ADHD medications. Strattera is also a long-acting medication which only needs to be taken once every 24 hours to enjoy continual benefits.

    The most common side effects of Strattera are:

    • tiredness
    • mild nausea
    • dizziness
    • headaches
    • mood swings
    • constipation
    • dry mouth
    • trouble sleeping
    • decreased appetite
    • abdominal pain
    • loss of libido

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    Adults Only

    Some studies have show a correlation between adolescent use of Strattera and an increase in suicidal thoughts and actions. Because of this, Strattera became the first ADHD medication to be specifically designed for use by adults with strong recommendations against using it with children, particularly children with bi-polar disorder or other anxiety disorders.

    For most adults on Strattera the benefit of managing their ADHD far outweighs the limited side effects associated with this medication.