In addition, short-acting clonidine and guanfacine may be used "off-label" to treat ADHD. Off-label use means that a medicine is being used to treat a condition for which it is not FDA-approved.
Nonstimulant medicines are not considered controlled substances, as they do not have a high potential for abuse. In addition, they are not likely to cause appetite problems, insomnia, and anxiety, which may occur with stimulant use. However, nonstimulants can cause drowsiness, which could affect how well they are tolerated.
Atomoxetine may be especially useful for treating ADHD in children who have tic disorders or anxiety disorders in addition to ADHD. Studies have shown that atomoxetine can reduce tic severity, as well as anxiety symptoms, in these children. It has also been shown to reduce heavy drinking in young adults with alcohol problems.
Like stimulants, there is a potential concern about rare, but serious, heart problems with atomoxetine use, especially in children and adolescents who already have underlying heart problems. In addition, atomoxetine may cause rare but serious liver damage.
Atomoxetine has an additional warning associated with its use. In clinical studies, children who took this drug had an increased risk for suicidal thoughts. Therefore, if your child is taking this medication, it is important to watch him or her carefully for any changes in behavior. If you notice any unusual behavior, contact your child's healthcare provider right away.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Mental Health. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). National Institutes of Health Publication No. 08-3572. 2008.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2007; 46: 894-921.
Wilens TE and Spencer TJ. Understanding Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder From Childhood to Adulthood. Postgraduate Medicine 2010; 122: 97-109.
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