How are antidepressants used to treat ADHD in children?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
Antidepressants are a treatment of choice for some children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Often, children will take antidepressants instead of stimulant medications when the side effects of stimulants are too intense. Like stimulant medications, antidepressants alter neurotransmitters in the brain, changing the ways that brain cells communicate. As a result, antidepressant medications help to reduce primary symptoms of ADHD. Some benefits of antidepressants include:

  • They last longer than stimulant medications.
  • Destructive behavioral symptoms do not return when the medication wears off.
  • They are not addictive.

A disadvantage of using antidepressants to treat ADHD is that they can cause a number of side effects. Due to these side effects, the medications are often used only when stimulant medications cannot be taken.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Certain antidepressants, like Wellbutrin (bupropion) help children with ADHD focus, control their actions, sit still, and remain quiet (when they need to be). However when we say certain, we mean certain, since other common antidepressants do not help relieve ADHD symptoms.

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