Managing Treatment

How to Manage the Side Effects of ADHD Medications in Kids

Six common side effects of stimulant medication and the strategies that can help alleviate them for a child with ADHD.

Weigh your ADHD child to track medication side effects
Weigh your ADHD child to track medication side effects

Side effects are common in children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) who take stimulant medications. Here are six common side effects, along with the strategies that may help alleviate them.

1. Loss of appetite, weight loss

  • Record your child’s weight in a medication log every 3 months.
  • Give stimulant medications at mealtimes, and offer high-calorie snacks, like ice cream, in-between meals.

2. Growth problems

  • Record your child’s height in your medication log every six months.
  • Attempt weekend and vacation drug holidays.

3. Trouble falling asleep

  • Administer the stimulant earlier in the day.
  • Change to a short-acting form of the stimulant.

4. Dizziness

  • Have your child’s blood pressure checked.
  • Increase your child’s fluid intake.
  • Switch to an extended-release med, such as Adderall XR, Ritalin LA, or Concerta.

5. Irritability, sadness, moodiness, or agitation 1-2 hours after administering the medication.

  • Lower the dosage.
  • Have your child assessed for depression and other problems.

6. Sadness, irritability, or worsening of ADHD symptoms as the drug wears off.

  • Change to an extended-release form of the stimulant.
  • Overlap stimulant dosing, usually by 30 minutes.

Adapted from Straight Talk about Psychiatric Medications for Kids, by Timothy E. Wilens, M.D.

More Resources:

Free Download: A Parent’s Guide to ADHD Medications
Free Webinar: Cracking the ADHD Medication Maze: How to Get, Afford, and Refill Your Prescriptions With Minimum Hassle
Recommended Article: When Treating Comorbid Conditions Causes Side Effects

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