Medications for Adult ADHD


by Thomas S. May

September, 2006

Currently, only two drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating ADHD in adults: Strattera (atomoxetine), a nonstimulant medication, and the stimulant Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts).

Another stimulant, Ritalin (methylphenidate), the most commonly used drug for treating childhood ADHD, has not yet been approved for use in adults. However, both Ritalin and extended-release, or long-acting, methylphenidate (Concerta) appear to be safe and effective for treating ADHD in adults, according to several randomized controlled trials. A transdermal (skin patch) version of methylphenidate is also being developed and appears safe and effective in preliminary studies.

There is also increasing evidence that the nonstimulant drug guanfacine can ameliorate the symptoms of ADHD in some patients.

Other medications currently being studied for possible use in adult ADHD include:

Bupropion (presently approved for depression and smoking cessation).

Tricyclic antidepressants.

Various cholinergic, catecholaminergic, and nicotinic agents.

Timothy Wilens, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says all medications (both stimulants and nonstimulants) now used to treat ADHD are generally well tolerated by most subjects, with dry mouth, reduced appetite, and mild increases in blood pressure the most common side effects.