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What Drugs Are Used for ADHD?


Treatments in use against attention deficit-hyperactive disorder (ADHD) include several US Food & Drug Administration-approved drugs. While they are valid treatment options, drugs do not suit every patient, and they are certainly not the only options available.

Typically, the drugs listed below are prescribed as part of a wider treatment program that might include other therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or related forms of counseling.

Central Nervous System (CNS) Stimulants

Ritalin (methleyphenidate) is a central nervous system stimulant (it is also sold under the brand names Metadate, Methylin, Daytrana and Concerta). It is a very old and well-understood drug, having first reached the US market back in 1955.

Ritalin is considered to be highly habit-forming and has a high potential for abuse. It is therefore listed as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it is highly controlled by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Focalin is another CNS stimulant, and a close cousin to Ritalin—its active ingredient is dexmethleyphenidate.

Similar to Ritalin, Adderall is an amphetamine, but Adderall has several active ingredients in it. Adderall contains a mixture of amphetamine salts: Dextroamphetamine, Saccharate, Amphetamine Aspartate, Dextroamphetamine Sulfate, and Amphetamine Sulfate.

Dexedrine, also known as dextroamphetamine and Dextrostat, is another medication used in the treatment of ADHD. Dexedrine is an old drug, approved by the US FDA in the 1970s originally as a diet drug.

Desoxyn is a close cousin of Dexedrine. Desoxyn's active ingredient is methamphetamine. Although it used to be prescribed with some frequency, Desoxyn is not often prescribed anymore.

Although Strattera (atomoxetine) is a CNS stimulant, it is not considered a controlled substance, although it does require a prescription.

Vyvanse is a recently-approved CNS stimulant used in the treatment of ADHD in patients who are at least six years old.

Antiadrenergic Agents

Intuniv (quanfacine) and Kapvay (clonidine) are antiadrenergic agents, not CNS stimulants, although they may be prescribed along-side CNS stimulants in the treatment of ADHD. Both are extremely new drugs, having been approved in 2009, so not much is known about them. They work by blocking some of the chemicals that would otherwise reach the brain and cause impulsive responses.


Two of the more popularly prescribed anti-depressants for ADHD include Pristiq, a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, and Tofranil, a tricyclic antidepressant.

Other Drugs

Because ADHD is still being understood by researchers and clinicians, one can expect more drug treatments to be developed to treat this disorder. For example, two alternative drugs used for ADHD include 5-hydroxytryptophan, also known as 5-HTP, a dietary supplement made from the seeds of the Griffonia plant, and the nutraceutical product Fish Oil

To date, drugs.com lists a full 58 possible drug treatments for ADHD, although not all of these are FDA-approved for this indication.

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