Below is a chart that summarizes the main medications used to treat ADHD at the present time.
Keep in mind that it is not limitless as there are always new developments going on with new medications.
Note: medications marked $ in the chart usually cost $15 or less, those marked $$ – between $15 to $ 100, and medications marked $$$ often have a price of over $100.
Table of Contents
The follow stimulants, non-stimulants, and medical foods have been officially approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA):
|Medication name brand/generic||Forms available||How soon will it work?||Common side effects||Severe side effects (uncommon or overdose)||Expense||Age|
|Methylphenidate / Ritalin and others||Tablet, extended release tablet and capsule, patch, liquid||About ½ hour. Extended-release may take one hour. Lasts 4-12 hours depending on the form||Poor appetite, irritability when medicine wearing off, stomach ache, headache||Weight loss, insomnia, depression, motor tics, heart arrhythmias||-Generic short-acting- $|
-Extended release: $$
Brand name: $$$
|From age 6|
|Amphetamine based/ Adderall||Tablet , extended release tablet and capsule, liquid||About ½ hour, lasts from 6 hours to 12 depending on form (varies between individuals.)||Poor appetite, irritability when medicine wears off, stomach ache, headache.||Weight loss or failure to gain weight, insomnia, depression, motor tics, heart arrhythmias.||Generic short acting: $$|
Generic extended release and brand name: $$$
|From age 3 for short acting forms. From age 6 for extended release forms|
|Medication name. generic/Brand||Forms available||How long it until it works?||Common Side Effects||Severe Side Effects||Expense|
Brand (cash price)
|Atomoxetine/ Strattera||capsule||Dose must be titrated, usually some response in two weeks, full response one month. Must be taken daily, usually one dose per day.||Stomach ache|
|Suicidal ideation in older teens and young adults, severe nausea, at higher doses can cause heart arrhythmia and chest pain. Liver disease also rare.||$$$||From age 6|
|Clonidine/Kapvay,||Tablet, patch/ extended release form approved for ADHD||Works in half an hour or so, taken daily, wean off to avoid blood pressure spike||Fatigue, moodiness, increased appetite||Rarely, low blood pressure, allergic reaction, dizziness, fainting.||$ (short acting)/|
$$$ (long acting brand)
|Clonidine approved for use in adults for blood pressure control, not for children/|
Kapvay 6-17 for ADHD, not approved for use in adults.
|Guanfacine/TenexIntuniv||Tablet, immediate, Intuniv is extended release.||Works in about half an hour, must be taken daily. Wean off to avoid sudden increased blood pressure.||Fatigue, moodiness, increased appetite||Rarely, low blood pressure, allergic reaction||$ (short acting, generic)/|
$$$ (long acting brand)
|Guanfacine and Tenex for blood pressure control not approved for use in children./ Intuniv approved for|
Medical Food (FDA see explanation in FAQ’s be;pw)
|Medication name||Forms Available||How long until it works?||Common side effects||Severe side effects||Expense||Age|
|capsule||14 days to 3 months.||Stomach pain, headache, insomnia||Those allergic to fish or shellfish should not take Vayarin to avoid an allergic reaction.||$$||All ages. Vayarin plus has increased dose suggested for teens and adults.|
Off Label (Type indicates FDA approved use)
Note: “off label” means that the FDA has not approved the medication for treating ADHD. Generally, the medication was originally approved for another condition. For example, the ADHD medications Intuniv and Kapvay were originally marketed for blood pressure control, yet for many years the generic forms of Intuniv and Kapvay were used to treat ADHD “off label”. Eventually, this led drug companies to seek FDA approval for forms of these generic medications (guanfacine, clonidine) in order to treat ADHD.
|Forms Available||How long until it works?||Common Side Effects||Severe Side Effects||Expense (based on cash price)||Age|
|Bupropion/Wellbutrin, Zyban. Anti-depressant||Tablet, immediate,|
Twice a day and once a day.
|Some initial effect, becomes more effective over 2-3 weeks.||Mild hand tremor, low appetite (temporary),|
|Increased risk of seizures,|
Rare: hair loss, allergic reaction
|$-$$$, depending on dosage /$$$||Not approved for use in children.|
Approved for adults for smoking cessation and depression.
|Tablet, once or twice daily||Some initial effect, becomes more effective over 2-3 weeks.||Dry mouth, fatigue, constipation, urinary hesitation,|
Increased appetite, stomach ache,
|Fatal in overdose, heart arrhythmias, chest pain, allergic reaction.||$-$$, depending on dosage /brand name not available.||Approved for treatment of depression in adults. Approved for children over 6 for treatment of enuresis (bedwetting).|
|Tablet, once or twice daily||Some initial effect, becomes more effective over 2-3 weeks.||Dry mouth,|
|Fatal in overdose, heart arrhythmias, chest pain, allergic reaction.||$$/$$-$$$, depending on dosage.||Approved for treatment of depression in adults. Not approved for use by children or teens.|
- Information on medications in detail can be found at https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/daf/index.cfm
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drugs Administration. (May 2016) Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Foods; Second Edition.
- Manor, I., Magen A., Keidar D., Rosen S., Tasker H., Cohen T., Richter Y., Zaaroor-Regev D., Manor Y., Weizman A. (2013) Safety of phosphatidylserine containing omega3 fatty acids in ADHD children: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial followed by an open-label extension. Eur Psychiatry. 28(6), 386-91.