ADHD Medication for Children


The content of this post is purely for informational and awareness purposes and should not (under any circumstances) be considered as medical advice. Prescription obtained upon consulting a registered physician is a MUST before administering ADHD Medication in Children.

Note: This post mostly covers medication for ADHD. For children with Autism, please refer to the Autism Medications page.

After behavior therapy, medication is perhaps the most effective option for treating a majority of children with attention deficit disorders. One of the main reasons a child will begin to do well and then drop off is due to the lack of monitoring the child’s medication. Once placed on medication you should never alter the dosage or type of medication without consulting your physician. As your child grows in height and weight medication dosages are likely to change in order to keep things in balance, but only upon consultation with the doctor/therapist.

ADHD Stats to Consider before taking Meds
Fig 1: ADHD Stats to Consider before taking Meds. Download Infographic

Administering ADHD Medication for Children

Teachers are probably in the best position to notice changes in your Childs academic and social functions. For this reason alone it is important that your child’s teacher is aware of what medication your child is taking, the amount and the times of the day it is taken. Teachers do not have the ability to dispense or change medications, however; they are an invaluable source of information for parents and physicians. Remember, teachers are with your child six to eight hours a day. During those hours, various social and academic issues are tackled every day.

ADHD Myths and Facts

List of ADHD Medications for Children
A good teacher will notice even the slightest of changes especially when it comes to homework and tests. Your child’s teachers are your eyes when you are not there. If a medication needs to be dispensed during the day make arrangements with the principal, teacher and school nurse. Do not allow your child to miss their medication. It is important the school knows exactly with what and when you child is medicated. Ask questions. Don’t take offense if a teacher informs you of a change. They too have your child’s best interest at heart.

List of ADHD Medications for Children

The primary medications used to treat Attention Deficit Hypersensitivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is all stimulants for the central nervous system. Medications called antidepressants are sometimes used for those with anxiety or depression issues. Below is a list of common medications used in the treatment of ADHD/ADD:

Stimulant ADHD Meds

Stimulant Medications have been used to effectively treat ADHD for several decades. Stimulant medications are effective in 70-80% of children with ADHD. For this reason, stimulants are used to treat both moderate and severe ADHD/ADD.

Some of the stimulant medications have age restrictions and should not be given to children under the age of 6. Discuss the effects with your doctor. Do not take a “friends” advice and try someone else’s medication. This is very dangerous. Here is a list of some of the most commonly used stimulant meds for ADHD:

  • Adderall and Adderall XR
  • Ritalin, Ritalin SR and Ritalin LA
  • Concerta
  • Daytrana
  • Dexedrine
  • Focalin and Focalin XR
  • Metadate CD and Metadate ER
  • Methylin and Methylin ER
  • Quillivant XR

Common Side Effects of Using Stimulant Medications for ADHD

Following are some of the most frequently observed side effects of using stimulant medication in children:

  • Decreased Appetite
  • Headaches and/or dizziness
  • Stomachaches and tummy cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Moodiness (rebound) and/or irritability
  • Motor Tics

Antidepressant ADHD Meds

Antidepressant ADHD Medication for Children
Fig 2: Antidepressant ADHD Medication for Children

Many of the medications often classified as antidepressants are often used to treat a variety of other conditions. Some of these medications that might be prescribed for your child, are used to elevate the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter. Serotonin is naturally found in all humans and if there is a low level of serotonin, you will notice signs of aggression (see ODD in children), depression and irritability. A child that is treated with these medications will be less aggressive, have a feeling of well being and will be less irritable.

Following is a list of some of the most common antidepressants that might be prescribed by your physician for treatment of ADHD in children:

  • Anafranil
  • Ritalin, Ritalin SR and Ritalin LA
  • Effexor
  • Pamelor
  • Dexedrine
  • Welbutrin
  • Buspar
  • Norpramin
  • Paxil
  • Tofranil
  • Zoloft

Antidepressant Side Effects in Children

Note: Some antidepressants have serious side effects, especially in children. The normal course would be for the doctor to prescribe a minor dose for a shorter trial period to evaluate the suitability of the drug. Only then should the physician prescribe the drug for long-term usage. If however, the physician has directly prescribed any antidepressant for long-term use, my recommendation would be to see a second opinion.

Here are some of the known side effects of prolonged use of antidepressants; and you can see, you not need to be a medical genius to figure out that this is pretty serious stuff:

  • Anxiety
  • Violent thoughts
  • Violent action and aggressive behavior
  • Suicide & suicidal thoughts *primarily in adults
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Withdrawal Symptoms

Other Medications for ADHD in Children

When stimulants and antidepressants are not effective, or if coexisting conditions (like Borderline AutismSensory Integration Disorder or Children already taking Risperdal) exists. These medications include:

  • Catapres (clonadine)
  • Depakote
  • Lithionate
  • Tenex

Some of the common side effects associated with these drugs are:

  • Headaches (frequent with no relief)
  • Jitteriness
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight loss or decreased appetite

Medications for ADHD – The Right Approach

ADHD Medication Treatment for Children
Fig 3: Medication is Pivotal to Treatment of ADHD in Children

Medication is a very important part of treating ADHD/ADD. Medication used in conjunction with other therapy measures will make a huge difference in your child’s ability to calm down, focus and learn. Many of the medications used to control the symptoms of ADHD/ADD come as time-released drugs or short-lived immediate release forms. Your doctor will prescribe the most effective drug and dosage for your child. Your physician may opt to try several medication until he or she is satisfied with your child’s progress.

As with any prescription medication, there may be side effects; so please be prepared. Usually, a side effect will occur early in treatment cycle and are often short lived. The side effects (discussed in each section above) may trigger on a case-by-case basis – what works for one child may not work for another. You should be in contact with your physician on a regular basis until a medication therapy, that works and has no side effects is identified. Your physician may alter the dosage, change the medication or change the time of the medication based on the information you, the parent, provide. As parents and teachers, it is critical to keep an eye out for the above side effects.

What to Expect with the Right Meds

Once you and your doctor have found the right medication therapy you should notice an increase in attention and concentration. You will be surprised that your child might become more compliant and is able to stay focused on tasks for a longer period of time.

You will also be glad to recognize a decrease in impulsivity, negative behavior, and physical hostility. You will also notice your child’s activity level has lessened allowing for better focus on the task at hand.

It is a journey to find the right combination of drug therapy, physical therapy, emotional and behavior therapy along with academics. Once you have crossed over the first few hurdles, you and your child will be on the road to a richer more fulfilling life.

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