A Patient's Guide to Atomoxetine ADHD Medication

A Patient's Guide to Atomoxetine ADHD Medication
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How Does this Medication Work?

This medication is classified as a selective reuptake inhibitor. It works to increase norepinephrine levels in the brain. Norepinephrine is a natural brain substance necessary for behavior control. With ADHD, impulsivity, attention and activity levels are abnormal. Norepinephrine plays a role in regulating impulsivity, attention and activity levels so by increasing its levels this medication is able to control these symptoms.

To explain further - some of the norepinephrine produced by nerves is actually reabsorbed by these same nerves. This results in reduced levels of ‘free’ norepinephrine in the brain which can cause the symptoms of impulsivity, reduced attention span and hyperactivity. Atomexetine is believed to help in lowering the amount of norepinephrine the nerves are able to reabsorb, leaving more available in the brain. When levels are sufficient, the patient is unlikely to be impulsive, have a short attention span or be hyperactive.

To sum it up, in patients where the nerves in the brain reabsorb too much norepinephrine creating a deficit, this medication has the potential to counteract the affect by lowering how much the nerves are able to reabsorb, which in turn, increases the amount norepinephrine.

Atomexetine for ADHD: Potential Benefits and Effectiveness

The benefits of treatment with this medication are impulse control and reduced hyperactivity. Of course, not all patients experience the benefits. Effectiveness is not achieved for everyone; it is patient-dependent and may also be reliant on the addition of other therapies to help control symptoms.

In a study from the Lilly Research Laboratories (makers of Atomexetine HCI marketing under brand name Strattera), University of Cincinnati, Indiana University School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital, in children whose ages ranged from eight to 18, Atomoxetine was superior to the placebo in improving family and social functioning symptoms and reducing ADHD symptoms. This was reported in 2001 in the Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics - 297 children between eight and 18 participated in this study. The children who received the actual drug were given 0.5 mg/kg/day, 1.2 mg/kg/day or 1.8 mg/kg/day based on their weight. They took the dose for an eight-week period, during which time social and family functioning, ADHD symptoms and affective symptoms were assessed via investigator and parent rating scales.

Prescribing Guidelines

Atomoxetine ADHD medication is prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adults. This medication is the first non-stimulant to be prescribed to adults as an ADHD treatment. It is more specifically prescribed for impulsive behavior and hyperactivity in patients with ADHD. Health care providers will usually prescribe this medication along with other therapies, such as behavioral therapies or other medications.

Side Effects and Warnings

Patients may experience the following side effects: heartburn, vomiting, weight loss, stomach pain, dry mouth, dizziness, mood swings, trouble urinating, muscle pain, hot flashes, extremity tingling or burning, nausea, loss of appetite, constipation, gas, excessive tiredness, headache, reduction in sexual ability or drive, irregular or painful menstrual periods, sweating and unusual dreams. If these worsen or persist, the patient should alert her doctor.

Serious, emergency side effects include chest pain, difficult or slow speech, numbness or weakness in the leg or arm, hoarseness, hives, abnormal thoughts, erection for several hours, fast or pounding heartbeat, shortness of breath, faintness or dizziness, swelling, trouble breathing or swallowing, rash, hallucinating or seizures.

This medication may adversely interact with MAO inhibitors, albuterol, bupropion, cimetidine, fluoxetine, metaproterenol, paroxetine, ritonavir, amiodarone, chlorpheniramine, clomipramine, haloperidol, high blood pressure medications, nefazodone, methadone, quinidine and sertraline.

Contraindications include certain allergies, narrow angle glaucoma, heart disease, irregular heartbeat, strokes, mental or mood disorders, cardiac sudden death history in family, low blood pressure, or prostate or bladder problems.

Pregnant women and nursing mothers may have to avoid this medication.

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


PubMed Health. (2008). Atomoxetine. Retrieved on April 27, 2011 from PubMed Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000222/

MedlinePlus. (2008). Atomoxetine. Retrieved on April 27, 2011 from MedlinePlus: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a603013.html

Michelson, D. et al. (2001). Atomoxetine in the Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Dose-Response Study. Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics. Vol. 108. No. 5 p. 83

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