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Antihypertensives for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
clonidine Kapvay
guanfacine Intuniv

These nonstimulant medicines are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They are often combined with stimulants for the treatment of ADHD.

How It Works

It is not known exactly how these medicines work when used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They appear to affect the body's production of norepinephrine, a brain chemical that helps control moods.

Why It Is Used

These medicines are useful in treating children who have ADHD, especially those who have repetitive muscle movements (tics) or significant problems controlling their impulses and aggression.

  • A combination of clonidine and methylphenidate (a stimulant, such as Concerta or Ritalin) has helped some children with difficult behavioral problems.
  • Guanfacine may improve attention, impulse control, and irritability.

How Well It Works

These antihypertensives seem to improve symptoms in some people who have ADHD, especially those with symptoms of frustration, extreme hyperactivity, and aggressiveness. They are also used for children who have ADHD and tic disorders.

Guanfacine seems to be as effective as (or more effective than) clonidine in treating ADHD, and it causes less drowsiness.

People with ADHD may show a greater improvement in symptoms when guanfacine is given in combination with psychostimulants.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Increased or irregular heart rate.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness.
  • Headache.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised May 14, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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