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5 Common Side Effects of ADHD Medications — and Fixes

The threat of potential side effects keeps many parents and adults from trying ADHD medication. Here are the most common adverse reactions, and ways to mitigate each.

The promise of symptom control beckons, but worries about side effects scare away many who might benefit from ADHD treatment.

“The most common are appetite suppression, headache, dry mouth, and insomnia, especially when the child starts medication,” says Terry Dickson, M.D. Learn more, and how to help the most common adverse reactions in this video.

5 Common Side Effects of ADHD Medications — and Fixes

The threat of potential side effects keeps many parents and adults from trying ADHD medication.

“Most side effects lessen with time. When there is a small problem with a med, you have to decide which is better: to live with a side effect for a bit, or with the child’s inability to focus?” – Terry Dickson, M.D.

Here are the most common adverse reactions, and ways to mitigate each.

  1. Stomach Problems
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Upset stomach

“When a child starts medication, there can be a one-to three-pound weight loss in the first month,” Dickson says. “However, it is common for the child to gain back the weight over the next three months.”

To help…

  • Have healthy snacks and meals on hand to feed your child whenever she is hungry.
  • Plan to eat before medication kicks in or after it wears off.
  • Take medication with food or milk.
  1. Insomnia
  • No electronics at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Use a white noise machine, or soft music for relaxation.
  • Consider changing your medication dosage or timing.
  1. Irritability and Mood Changes

“Irritability while on medication can be a side effect of the drug or a sign that a child may have another disorder,” Dickson says.

  • Work with your doctor to add a small second dose to avoid the “rebound” when meds wear off.
  • Consider an evaluation for a related condition like anxiety.
  1. Headaches
  • “Giving Tylenol or Motrin as appropriate,” Dickson says.
  • If headaches persist, discuss changing the dosage with your doctor.
  1. Dry Mouth
  • Carry a water bottle.
  • Suck on sugarless candies.

If side effects persist and/or impact daily life and overall health, speak with your doctor about other medication options.

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