Do medications for ADHD have side effects?

Louise E. Sivak, MD

There are two broad classes of medication used successfully for the treatment of ADHD. One is termed "stimulant-type" and these are based on dextro-amphetamine, and the other is termed "non-stimulant type" and they have a broader range of chemical classes across that range. Each medication regimen must be tailored to the individual child. In general, the stimulant type medicines may have side effects of appetite loss, poor sleep, higher blood pressure, and heart rhythm abnormalities. We pediatricians ask about family medical history of heart issues and perform a "baseline" ECG (heart rhythm test) prior to starting any of these medications. The non-stimulant medicines can have temporary side effects of stomach aches and/or headaches. As with all medicines, if the person has side effects worse than the condition we are trying to treat, we decrease dose or change to a better medicine for that child.

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
If you are the parent of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you might be nervous about the potential side effects of ADHD drugs. The truth is that while most people can handle ADHD drugs just fine, you may notice some mild symptoms in your child. Here are some medication side effects:
  • trouble sleeping
  • mood changes
  • reduced appetite
When side effects happen, sometimes the dose needs to be adjusted. Rarely, serious side effects occur.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Don’t know any medication without side effects. Those from medications for ADHD are usually minor, like mood changes, reduced appetite, or trouble sleeping, but some related to heart disease can be in the big leagues. Tell your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they are severe and do not go away.

Medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do have side effects, which may vary from medication to medication and with dose. Your doctor should be able to provide you with a detailed list of possible side effects of your child's medication. Some common side effects include headaches, appetite, and sleep problems. Rare side effects may be serious. Consult your doctor if your child seems emotionless, has other mood changes, displays repetitive movements or noises, or has suicidal thoughts. Tell your doctor if your child has a preexisting heart problem.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.