Using Tenex for ADHD? A Comprehensive Guide

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The Role of Tenex in Regulating Norepinephrine in the Brain

Using the medication Tenex for ADHD to alleviate the burden of certain symptoms is definitely an option worth considering.

Tenex is from a class of medicines known collectively as antihypertensives. Therefore, it’s used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension). Guanfacine is the generic name for Tenex. What it does for ADHD is work to reduce the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine (NE). So how does that help with symptoms of ADHD? To understand better, we must first take a look at what ADHD does to the brain, specifically in terms of the integral role of NE.

Norepinephrine plays a significant part in moderating attention, arousal, and mood. Defects in the receptor genes and transporter proteins for NE and dopamine contribute to the characteristic abnormalities in the ADHD brain. Tenex reduces the release of NE in the prefrontal cortex (in the front of the brain) and decreases the delicate sensitivity to distracting stimuli. By controlling nerve impulses along some nerve pathways, Tenex relaxes blood vessels. Therefore, blood passes through those vessels more easily and in turn, blood pressure is lowered which can help the individual to relax more. Unlike most other medications for ADHD, Tenex is not a stimulant.

Tenex Can Help Reduce Distractibility and Improve Focus

According to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatry (July, 2001), researchers concluded that Tenex appeared to be safe and effective in treating children with ADHD. That study revealed that Tenex was associated with a 37% improvement in the total score on a teacher-rated ADHD Rating Scale, compared to only an 8% improvement in children taking a placebo. Both drug and placebo were administered for eight weeks. This implies that ability to stay on task and focus was improved with the drug. Conduct problems may also be reduced in children who take Tenex for ADHD. It reduces the level of distractibility, although it will not do anything for boredom or help children focus on activities they are not interested in.

Tenex is similar to Clonidine, used specifically for the treatment of hyperactivity inherent in ADHD, but it’s 10 times stronger in the prefrontal cortex and has less of a sedative effect. Some patients using Tenex report that it helps ease social anxiety but it seems to be most effective when taken in conjunction with stimulants like Ritalin, which is more helpful in treating the full range of ADHD symptoms. That is why stimulants are often the primary and first line of treatment, but not everyone with ADHD can take them.

Possible Side Effects of Tenex for ADHD

  • Difficulty breathing, closing of your throat
  • Swelling in the face, tongue, or lips
  • Hives
  • Depression
  • A very slow heart rate (fewer than 60 beats per minute)
  • Unusually high or low blood pressure that can result in fainting, severe headaches, and/or flushing of face
  • Fatigue and dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting

Some Final Thoughts Regarding Tenex

As with any medication for ADHD, never consider taking it without carefully consulting your medical doctor and the mental health professionals who are fully versed in the history of your mental illness. Checking out the forums to learn about the experiences of others who used this drug themselves, or administered the drug to their children, can be a very good idea so long as you understand that unsolicited opinions should not be taken in the absence of consultations with trained doctors. Tenex may not help alleviate any symptoms in some cases and the harmful side effects could cause more trouble than their worth. And finally, Tenex is not a drug that should be stopped suddenly unless that is the advice of your doctor. Due to its affect on blood pressure and neural pathways, a person should slowly wean themselves off it over a four to six week period.

NB: The content of this article is for information purposes and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.


Larry Scahill, M.S.N., Ph.D., Phillip B. Chappell, M.D., Young S. Kim, M.D., Robert T. Schultz, Ph.D., Lily Katsovich, M.S., Elizabeth Shepherd, M.A., Amy F.T. Arnsten, Ph.D., Donald J. Cohen, M.D., and James F. Leckman, M.D. A Placebo-Controlled Study of Guanfacine in the Treatment of Children With Tic Disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Journal of American Psychiatry

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