Nonstimulants

Intuniv: Answers to Your ADHD Medication Questions

Intuniv is a once-a-day non-stimulant medication, related to guanfacine, that’s used to treat ADHD in children between the ages of 6 and 17. Here’s what you need to know about dosages, side effects, benefits, and more.

Questions about ADHD medication
Questions about ADHD medication

Considering treating your child’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) with Intuniv? William Dodson, M.D., answers frequently asked questions about this nonstimulant ADHD medication.

Which ADHD symptoms does Intuniv help treat?

I use stimulants for performance enhancement in school and work settings. But stimulants don’t touch some symptoms of ADHD that impair patients’ lives: emotional sensitivity, an inner sense of hyperarousal that makes people uncomfortable in their own skin, social aggressiveness, especially in kids. Intuniv does a good job with these symptoms, largely without side effects.

How effective is Intuniv at treating ADHD in children?

About 70 percent of people who take Intuniv get robust benefits, and we don’t know, in advance of taking it, who will respond well. A person has to try the medication. It typically takes a week to find out if it will help. The benefits accrue over time. Twenty percent of people won’t see any benefit and may feel crummy. About 10 percent experience irritability from the first dose. In my experience, the irritability doesn’t wear off, and I tell affected patients to stop taking it.

[Expert Resource: A Parent’s Guide to ADHD Medication]

How has Intuniv worked for your patients with ADD?

I started out as a skeptic about Intuniv — a time-release version of the alpha-2 agonist guanfacine — but my ADHD patients’ favorable responses have made me an advocate for it. I prescribe it for all age groups, not just the six- to 17-year-old group for which the FDA approved it. I almost always use it as an adjunct to a stimulant.

What makes Intuniv different from other ADHD medications?

The time-release kinetics of Intuniv make the difference. The quick absorption of immediate-release guanfacine causes the nervous system to fight the effects of the medication — or immediate-release stimulants, for that matter — when it is released, in a rush, into the bloodstream. You experience that “fight” as side effects. The extended, gradual release of Intuniv doesn’t seem to elicit this reaction in the nervous system.

Is there a difference between generic guanfacine and Intuniv? How do they compare?

The first people I prescribed Intuniv to had been taking guanfacine for several years. With the exception of one person, they came back saying, “I love this new medication, but tell me, What is it really? I’ve been taking guanfacine, and this isn’t guanfacine.”