Strattera for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD): Using Non-Stimulant Medications for ADD and ADHD

When an adult or child is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder or ADHD, doctors frequently prescribe a type of medication that works on the brain and chemicals in the brain called dopamine. These drugs like Ritalin and Adderall are called psycho-stimulants and work on the neurotransmitter dopamine to help control impulsive behavior and improve concentration.

While it may seem backwards to prescribe a medication that stimulates the brain, this form of treatment is shown to be quite successful in children and adults with ADD.

However, in some cases, a non-stimulating drug may be more effective for certain types of ADD and ADHD. These medications work on a different chemical in the brain called norepinephrine.

The FDA has only approved one type of medication to be classified as a non-stimulating treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This medication is called atomoxetine and sold under the name Strattera.

Benefits of Strattera for ADD and ADHD

Lilly USA, the manufacturer of Strattera says that norepinepherine reuptake inhibitors have the potential to help people:

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  • Have better follow-through
  • Finish Tasks
  • Keep attention and focus
  • Maintain structure and organization in tasks

A major benefit for people taking Strattera is that the medication offers continual relief, not the “on and off effect of CNS (Central Nervous System stimulating medicines),” according to Dr. Brian D. Boyle, author of Understanding and Treating Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is especially appealing to patients who have experienced the crash, or extreme drop in energy, when a stimulating medication like Ritalin wears off.

Dr. Boyle also cautions patients and parents to be patient with medications like Strattera because the drugs do take time to work, similar in the way antidepressants may take up to a month or more to notice improvement. In fact, Strattera may also improve symptoms of depression in ADD and ADHD patients who have been diagnosed with both depression and ADD.

Concerns about Strattera for ADD and ADHD

As with any medication, atomexetine has potential side effects. The most common reported problems from both children and adults taking Strattera are nausea and feeling tired. Taking the medication with food can help with stomach problems. As the body becomes adjusted to the medication, energy levels do seem to balance however sometimes an adjustment in the dose may be necessary as well.

More serious side effects of Strattera can include liver damage and suicidal thoughts. Most doctors discuss at length the concerns for patients, especially children, and to be aware of the potentially dangerous side effect. Lilly reports that although thoughts of suicide occur in only less than half of one percent (4 out of 1000) patients, people should be aware and prepared for the possibility.

Deciding to Take Medication Like Strattera for ADD

There are many forms of treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder and ADHD. Medication can be very helpful but there is no magic single pill that can fix every symptom. Other treatments combined with medication and therapy are showing great promise. Treatment takes time and patience. Success can be achieved with proper expectations and understanding.