ADHD Medications

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.

a young girl with her doctor after being prescribed a medication for her ADHD
a young girl with her doctor after being prescribed a medication for her ADHD

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 PMMetadate, Methylin, Quillichew, QuillivantRitalinRitalin LARitalin 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
methamphetamine Desoxyn
mixed amphetamine salts Adderall, Adderall XR, Mydayis
amphetamine sulfate Evekeo
lisdexamfetamine Vyvanse
Nonstimulants atomoxetine Strattera
Viloxazine hydrochloride Qelbree
bupropion (antidepressant) Wellbutrin
imipramine (antidepressant) Tofranil
desipramine (antidepressant) Norpramine
nortriptyline (antidepressant) Pamelor
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.
paroxetine Paxil
sertraline Zoloft
fluvoxamine Luvox
citalopram Celexa
SNRIs venlafaxine Effexor XR
duloxetine Cymbalta
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.
beta blocker Propranolol
diazepam Valium
buspirone Buspar
clonazepam Klonopin
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.
haloperidol Haldol
Alpha Agonists guanfacine Tenex
clonidine Catapres
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.
carbamazepine Tegretol
gabapentin Neurontin
lamotrigine Lamictal
oxcarbazepine Trileptal
tiagabine Gabritril
Atypical neuroleptics risperidone Risperdal
olanzapine Zyprexa
ziprasidone Geodon
quetiapine Seroquel
aripirazole Abilify