A Parent’s Guide to Psychiatric Medications for Children
ADHD stimulants. SSRIs for depression. Anticonvulsants. Learn the ins and outs of these and other psychiatric drugs commonly prescribed to children with ADHD and related conditions.
How many ADHD medications will your child need to take? If attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) is the sole diagnosis, he or she may need only one (or none at all, if you choose to limit treatment to non-drug approaches, such as behavior therapy).
But if your child exhibits symptoms of an ADHD comorbidity — that is, a psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, tic disorder, or bipolar disorder — in addition to ADHD, you should expect that the doctor will recommend a different medication to treat each disorder.
Here are some of the psychiatric drugs that doctors prescribe most frequently for each condition.
|Psychiatric Diagnosis||Drug Classification||Generic Name(s)||Brand Names(s)||Comments|
|ADHD||Stimulants||methylphenidate||Adhansia XR, Aptensio, Concerta, Cotempla XR-ODT, Daytrana, Jornay PM, Metadate, Methylin, Quillichew, Quillivant, Ritalin, Ritalin LA, Ritalin SR||There are two primary categories of ADHD medication: stimulants and non-stimulants. Doctors typically prescribe a stimulant first. If side effects prove troublesome for the child, they might try a non-stimulant.|
|dex-methylphenidate||Focalin, Focalin XR|
|amphetamine||Adzenys ER, Adzenys XR-ODT, Dyanavel XR|
|dextro-amphetamine||Dexedrine, Dexedrine ER, ProCentra, Zenzedi|
|mixed amphetamine salts||Adderall, Adderall XR, Mydayis|
|clonidine (alpha agonist)||Kapvay|
|guanfacine (alpha agonist)||Intuniv|
|Depression||SSRIs||fluoxetine||Prozac||Two categories of medication are commonly prescribed: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and non-SSRIs. Sometimes it takes several tries to find a drug that works well. Doctors often try fluoxetine (Prozac) first, because it is the only one of these medications specifically approved to treat depression in children.|
|Anxiety||Anti-anxiety Medications||alprazolam||Xanax||If a child’s anxiety is generalized, the doctor is likely to prescribe an SSRI (see above). If anxiety is specific or occasional-for example, occurring only at school-the doctor might opt to prescribe an antianxiety drug or a betablocker instead.|
|Tic Disorders||Neuroleptics||pimozide||Orap||Medications are not the first line of treatment for tic disorders, but neuroleptics and nonstimulants can sometimes provide relief when tics interfere with functioning and all other interventions have failed.|
|Bipolar Disorder||Mood Stabilizers||divalproex||Depakote||In addition to the traditional drug lithium, doctors now treat bipolar disorder (manic depression) with mood stabilizers and/or atypical neuroleptics.|