Intuniv (guanfacine) is a once-daily, non-stimulant ADHD medication used to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children ages 6-12, and adolescents. Learn about Intuniv side effects and dosages, plus how it differs from stimulant ADD medications like Vyvanse or Adderall.
Generic Name: Guanfacine
What Is the ADHD Medication Intuniv (Guanfacine)?
Intuniv (generic name: guanfacine) is a once-daily, non-stimulant ADHD medication approved to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) in children ages 6-12, and adolescents. Although only studied and approved in children and adolescents, Intuniv is commonly used off-label by all ages.
Intuniv is most commonly used as an add-on to a finely tuned stimulant medication. It can be used by itself as a monotherapy when people do not get benefits from the stimulant medications, do not tolerate the stimulant medications, or decline the use of stimulant class medications.
How Does Intuniv (Guanfacine) Work to Treat ADHD Symptoms?
Intuniv is a central alpha2A-adrenergic receptor agonist that is thought to address major areas of impairment and ADHD symptoms such as emotional sensitivity, hyperarousal, rejection sensitivity and social aggression that are not addressed by stimulant medications . Thus, non-stimulant medications like Intuniv sometimes help patients with ADHD who can’t take or don’t experience benefits from stimulants.The alpha agonists treat the impairments that stimulants do not treat well by lowering the adrenaline side of the nervous system so that its level is the same as a person who does not have ADHD.
Intuniv has not been studied in children younger than 6. Intuniv does not have a high risk of abuse or dependence. It is not a controlled substance.
The two alpha agonists available in the United States were originally brought to the market in the early 1980’s as medications to lower blood pressure. In practice, the alpha agonists are not very effective for blood pressure so low blood pressure is rarely a major side effect of this category of medications. Their primary FDA-approved use now is to treat the hyperarousal component of ADHD.
How Do You Use Intuniv (Guanfacine) to Treat ADHD?
Before starting or refilling an Intuniv prescription, read the medication guide included with your pills, as it may be updated with new information.
This guide should not replace a conversation with your doctor, who has a holistic view of your or your child’s medical history, other diagnoses, and other prescriptions. If you have questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist before you begin taking the medication.
What Dosage of Intuniv Is Used to Treat ADHD?
As with all medications, follow your Intuniv prescription instructions exactly. Intuniv is an extended-release tablet taken once daily in the morning or evening at approximately the same time each day. Tablets are available in 1mg, 2mg, 3mg, and 4mg dosages.
Intuniv should not be taken with a high-fat meal. This can speed up the release of medication, and increase the risk of side effects. Tablets should be swallowed whole, and never crushed or chewed.
The optimal dosage varies patient by patient. Your doctor may adjust your dosage weekly by 1 mg to the dose at which you experience the greatest improvement in symptoms without side effects. Fine-tuning the dose of either alpha agonist will take several weeks. Unlike the stimulant medications that are immediately effective in just an hour or so, the alpha agonists such as Intuniv take 5 days for their benefits to develop each time the dose is increased. During the process of fine-tuning the dose the fastest that each step can be taken is every 5th day. This also means that Intuniv must be taken every day. If a person misses several doses, the benefits are lost and the person has to start over again and wait 5 days for the benefits to develop once more.”
Do not drink alcohol while taking this drug.
As with all medications, drugs like Intuniv should not be stopped suddenly or without prior consultation with a clinician.
What Are the Side Effects of Intuniv?
The FDA cites the following side effects of Intuniv :
- dry mouth
- difficulty sleeping
- stomach pain
- slow heart rate
- low blood pressure
Other serious side effects of Intuniv include
- low blood pressure
- low heart rate
- increased blood pressure and heart rate or other withdrawal symptoms after suddenly stopping IntunIn practice, three major side effects are reported by clinicians with any frequency:
- Mild sedation / sleepiness in about 25% of people
- Dry mouth that usually goes away in about 2 weeks in about 20% of people
- An accentuation of the experience of standing up quickly and getting lightheaded, dizzy, and vision turning somewhat gray. This universal experience can increase in frequency in about 10% of people who take Intuniv.
Paradoxically both of the alpha agonists can cause difficulty sleeping and severe irritability in about 1-2% of people. Neither of these side effects go away with time so, if they occur, the Intuniv will need to be stopped.”
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.
What Precautions Are Associated with Intuniv?
Store Intuniv in a secure place out of the reach of children, and at room temperature. Do not share your Intuniv prescription with anyone, even another person with ADHD. Sharing prescription medication is illegal, and can cause harm.
You should not take Intuniv if you have an allergy to Intuniv or any of its ingredients. You should use caution taking Intuniv if you have kidney problems, a history of fainting, heart problems, or a history of stroke.
Avoid becoming overheated or dehydrated while taking Intuniv.
If you’re thinking of having a child, discuss the use of Intuniv with your doctor. Animal studies indicate a potential risk of fetal harm. It is not known if Intuniv is passed through breastmilk, so it is recommended that mothers do not nurse while taking it.
What Interactions Are Associated with Intuniv?
Before taking Intuniv, discuss all other active prescription medications with your doctor. Intuniv can exacerbate the drowsiness created by depressants including alcohol, barbiturates, antihistamines, or other sedatives.
Share a list of all vitamin or herbal supplements, and prescription and non-prescription medications you take with the pharmacist when you fill your prescription, and let all doctors and physicians know you are taking Intuniv before having any surgery or laboratory tests. The above is not a complete list of all possible drug interactions.
Tips for Good Medication and Treatment Reviews
- Post reviews only for medications or treatments you have used or prescribed.
- In your description, mention whether you're reviewing the medication or treatment for a child or for an adult (yourself or another adult), and as a patient or as a medical professional.
- Mention what medical condition you were using the medication or treatment to address.
- Mention the brand, dose, and period of time that you used the medication or treatment.
- Please share your positive and negative experiences with the medication or treatment in detail. Note effectiveness, ease of use, side effects; and compare it with other treatments you have used.
- Do not include any personal information or links in your review.