Intuniv: Answers to Your ADHD Medication Questions

Intuniv is a once-a-day non-stimulant ADHD medication, a form of 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

Intuniv for ADHD Symptoms

Considering treating your child’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) with Intuniv? William Dodson, M.D., answers frequently asked questions about this non-stimulant ADHD medication, whose generic version is guanfacine.

What does Intuniv do for ADHD?

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 for ADHD 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.”

What are common side effects of Intuniv?

  • sleepiness
  • dry mouth
  • tiredness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • dizziness
  • irritability
  • vomiting

Other serious side effects of Intuniv include:

  • low blood pressure
  • slow heart rate
  • fainting
  • increased blood pressure and heart rate or other withdrawal symptoms after suddenly stopping Intuniv

Taking Intuniv may impair your or your teenager’s ability to drive, operate machinery, or perform other potentially dangerous tasks. If side effects are bothersome, or do not go away, talk to your doctor. Most people taking this medication do not experience any of these side effects.

Report to your doctor any heart-related problems or a family history of heart and blood pressure problems. Patients with structural cardiac abnormalities, renal failure, and serious heart problems could experience complications while taking Intuniv. Physicians should monitor these vital signs closely during treatment. Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experience warning signs such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting while taking Intuniv.

The above is not a complete list of potential side effects. If you notice any health changes not listed above, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

Intuniv and Other ADHD Medications: More Information