Adult ADHD Medication Options

Page content

Overview of Adult ADHD Medication Options

Some adults with ADHD have learned to compensate for their ADHD symptoms and may not need to resort to taking medication for symptom control. Others may have a more severe form of the condition and want to find out about adult ADHD medication options they can consider to get their symptoms under control and regain control of their lives.

Many of the same medications prescribed for children with ADHD are just as effective for adults with ADHD. These include stimulant medications such as methylphenidate, methamphetamines and amphetamine medications [1] Others include non-stimulant medications (Strattera) and antidepressants. [2]

Antidepressant Medications

Antidepressants are used for ADHD patients, particularly for their effects on dopamine and norepinephrine. [1] A newer generation of antidepressant medications such as duloxetine, venlafaxine and desvenlafaxine affect the levels of norepinephrine.

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or SNRIs such as these inhibit reabsorption of these brain chemicals into the brain. The higher concentration of both serotonin and norepinephrine make neurotransmission of nerve impulses more efficient, according to the Mayo Clinic. [4] SNRI medications can be used by patients with ADHD. [4]

Another class of antidepressant medications Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin XL (bupropion) exert an indirect effect on the neurotransmitter dopamine. [1]


Stimulant medications (amphetamines and methylphenidate) work well for adults with ADHD. Medications like Ritalin and Dexedrine are reported to have a 60 to 80 percent effectiveness rate; they do not work well for everyone.

NIMH cautions that adults with ADHD may also have other conditions requiring medications (high blood pressure, diabetes or depression) that may not interact well with stimulant medications. These adults need to discuss other medications they may be taking so they don’t receive a prescription that can potentially cause serious health risks. [2]


Atomoxetine or Strattera, is a non-stimulant medication prescribed as an adult ADHD medication option. This medication increases norepinephrine levels in the brain and takes three to four weeks to reach full effectiveness. [1]

Patients taking Strattera need to be aware that this medication can cause an increase in the heart rate, as well as in blood pressure – therefore, adult ADHD patients who also suffer from high blood pressure should use this medication cautiously. Heart patients suffering from congestive heart failure, heart arrhythmias, or who have recently had a heart attack should discuss this medication with their doctors before using it. If the patient has had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), stroke or a subarachnoid hemorrhage, these need to be discussed with your doctor if he is thinking of prescribing Strattera.

Adult ADHD patients who suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon, bipolar disorder, bladder problems, cirrhosis, glaucoma or who have experienced previous suicide attempts should also discuss these with their doctors.

Women who are pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant or who are breast feeding also need to let their doctors know this information.

Some side effects can include dry mouth, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, constipation, insomnia and headaches. [3]

This medication was released in 2002 and no long-term information about its safety record is available. While some patients appreciate some of the benefits of Strattera (24-hour effect), other patients have found that this medication doesn’t work as effectively as stimulant medications they have taken in the past. In addition, ADD Resources reports that “many” complaints have been registered about Strattera’s side effects. [5]


eMedTV: Adult ADHD Medication

National Institute of Mental Health: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

EMedTV: Atomoxetine

Mayo Clinic: Depression (Major Depression): Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

Attention Deficit Disorder Resources: ADHD Medications: Adderall, Concerta, Daytrana, Dexedrine, Focalin, Metadate, Ritalin, Strattera and More