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ADHD Medication Side Effects

Blue generic Adderall pills pouring out from a pill bottle.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood. For many people, the symptoms continue into adulthood. ADHD can cause problems with paying attention and impulse control, and different prescription medications may be used to treat the symptoms.

While these medications can be helpful, there are ADHD medication side effects to be aware of. The two main types of ADHD medications are stimulant and non-stimulant, and these different categories have varying side effects. Stimulants are usually the first-line treatment for ADHD, and non-stimulant drugs tend to be reserved for patients who can’t tolerate stimulants.

Side Effects of ADHD Stimulant Medication

Before learning what the side effects are, it’s important to be able to identify what specific ADHD medications are. Some of the commonly prescribed stimulant ADHD medications include:

Stimulant medications help adjust the level of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Stimulant ADHD medications affect norepinephrine and dopamine. These medications stimulate brain activity in a way that produces more of the neurotransmitters that people with ADHD are believed to be deficient in.

Some potential side effects of stimulants for ADHD include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Irritability as the medication wears off
  • Moodiness
  • Nervousness

Less common side effects of stimulants for ADHD can include tics, which are repetitive sounds or movements, and changes in personality.

Side Effects of Non-Stimulant Medication

Non-stimulant medications include less commonly prescribed options like Strattera, Tenex, Intuniv and Kapvay. These medications still affect the brain in similar ways to stimulants, but with fewer side effects. For example, non-stimulant medications don’t usually cause problems with sleep or appetite, or lead to agitation and irritability. Non-stimulants don’t have the risk of abuse and addiction that stimulant ADHD drugs do either.

Even though they may have some benefits, non-stimulants do have the potential for side effects. Possible side effects of non-stimulant ADHD meds include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Reduced appetite
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings

Research on Long-Term Effects of ADHD Medication in Teens

Along with short-term side effects, parents are often concerned about the long-term effects of ADHD medication. Overall, researchers don’t believe there are significant long-term effects of taking ADHD medication in childhood and adolescence, although some evidence suggests children who take stimulants into adulthood may be shorter. Rarely, the use of ADHD medications is linked to mental health issues such as mood swings, paranoia or symptoms of psychosis.

Of course, if someone is using the medications as prescribed the risks are low, but if someone uses these medications in a way that would indicate abuse, the long-term effects can be serious. For example, cardiac issues, such as an increased risk of heart attack, can occur with ADHD medication abuse.

Can ADHD Medication Cause Addiction?

Is ADHD medication addictive? Yes, stimulant medications, in particular, can be addictive. These drugs affect feel-good neurotransmitters and can create a high that leads to addiction. However, if a child or teen follows prescribing instructions and doesn’t abuse their medication, the risk of becoming addicted to ADHD medication is low.

If your teen struggles with ADHD medication addiction, contact Next Generation Village. A representative can talk with you about programs for Adderall addiction and addiction to other ADHD medications.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


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