A Parent’s Guide to Psychiatric Medications for Children with ADHD
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 medications will your child need to take? If ADHD 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 psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, in addition to ADHD, don’t be surprised if the doctor prescribes a different medication for each disorder.
Here are some of the psychiatric drugs that doctors prescribe most frequently.
|Psychiatric Diagnosis||Drug Classification||Generic Name(s)||Brand Names(s)||Comments|
|ADHD||Stimulants||methylphenidate||Ritalin, Methylin, Metadate||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.|
|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 instead.|
|Bipolar Disorder||Anticonvulsants||divalproex||Depakote||In addition to the traditional drug, lithium, doctors now treat bipolar disorder (manic depression) with anticonvulsants and/or atypical antipsychotics.|