Strattera: ADHD Medication FAQ
Strattera (atomoxetine) is a non-stimulant ADHD medication used to treat symptoms of attention deficit disorder in children and adults. Learn how it works, how it’s taken, and common side effects.
What is Strattera for ADHD?
Strattera is a non-stimulant medication used to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) including distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity in children, teens, and adults. Strattera has long been advertised as the first non-stimulant ADHD medication, however doctors also commonly prescribe non-stimulant medications like Intuniv, clonidine, and guanfacine as well.
Also known by the generic name atomoxetine, Strattera is a norepinephrine (noradrenaline) reuptake inhibitor approved for the treatment of ADHD.
How does Strattera work?
Strattera’s structure, models of action, length of time needed to work, and side effects are in many ways similar to a group of medications for mood disorders called “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors,” or SSRIs. In fact, it was first studied as a treatment for mood disorders. When it was not found to be successful, it was tried for ADHD. Strattera is approved for use with children aged 6 years and older, as well as teens and adults with ADD. Safety and effectiveness have not been established in patients less than six years of age.
How is Strattera taken?
Strattera takes from one to four weeks to work. The dose is based on body weight. After four weeks, the dose can be increased. Capsules are available in 10, 18, 25, 40 and 60 mg strengths. Since it is not a stimulant medication, prescriptions can be called into the pharmacist and renewals can be written for it. The initial dose is 0.5 mg/kg. The targeted clinical dose is approximately 1.2 mg/kg. Medication is given in the morning and must be used each day. When higher doses are needed, the amount needed can be divided into two doses, one in the morning and one in the evening.
The suggested plan is to use a starting dose for four days and then move up to the target dose. After a month, the dose might be increased again. The goal is to decrease the level of common ADD symptoms like hyperactivity, distractibility, and impulsivity. The early literature proposes that Strattera might improve problems with organization.
Are there any side effects to taking Strattera?
The most common side effects are decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dyspepsia (indigestion), dizziness, and mood swings. If these side effects occur, it is recommended that the medication be continued for a short period of time to see if they decrease or go away. If they do not, the medication needs to be discontinued. Work with your family physician and let the clinical benefits noted with your child guide you.
Larry Silver, M.D., is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Specialist Panel.
Strattera is manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company. For more information, visit the patient and healthcare professional website.