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Side effects of medication in ADHD

Side effects of medication in ADHD

Medications for ADHD are effective in reducing the symptoms of ADHD (also known as ADT) in most children. But sometimes they can cause side effects. This is true for both stimulant and non-stimulant medications.

Side effects such as an upset stomach or headaches, usually disappear within a few days once the child’s body gets used to the medication. However, other common side effects, such as decreased appetite, may not go away as quickly. Also, the intensity with which children experience side effects varies, from mild to severe. These side effects may occur while the medication is working or after it stops working.

Sometimes side effects continue for longer than a few days, or they can be so bothersome that changes need to be made. In that case, the doctor could change the dose or change the type of medication.

These are some of the side effects of stimulant and non-stimulant medications. For more information, review our complete guide on medication for ADHD.

Side effects of stimulant medications for ADHD

There are two types of stimulant medications. Methylphenidates that include Ritalin, Focalin, Metadata and Concerta, and amphetamines that include Dexedrine, Adderall and Vyvanse.

Possible side effects of these medications include:

  • Sleeping problems
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Elevation of blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches and stomach
  • Rebound effect (irritability when the effect of the medication disappears)
  • Bad mood and irritability
  • Nervousness

Less common side effects of stimulant medications include:

Tics (sudden repetitive movements or sounds)

Personality changes, such as being too serious most of the time and lack of enthusiasm or habitual spontaneity

Side effects of non-stimulant medications

There are several non-stimulant medications, including Strattera, Tenex, Intuniv and Kapvay.

Possible side effects of these medications include:


Stomach pains

Decreased appetite

Weight loss



Emotional highs and lows

How to help with the side effects of medication for ADHD?

It is important to inform your doctor of any adverse effects. You may want to make changes in the dose or schedule at which your child ingests the medication. There are also things you can try at home to reduce side effects.

Sleep problems: Sometimes stimulant medications make it hard for children to fall asleep. This problem usually takes four to six weeks to improve. In addition, ADHD itself can make it difficult for children to calm down and fall asleep at night. That is why it is advisable to make changes in the routine of going to bed with your child.

Eating problems: Stimulant medications can cause eating problems while they are active in the child’s body. The prolonged release formulas reach the maximum effectiveness after four hours of having been ingested. So, if the kids take the medication right after breakfast, they may not be hungry at lunchtime. It is important that the children eat breakfast first and encourage them to eat at any time they feel hungry.

You will probably feel hungry once the effect of the medication disappears, and you may feel hungry at the end of the day. Having snacks on hand can help you get enough calories throughout the day.

Nausea and headaches: These problems usually go away after several weeks of starting the medicine. In the meantime, you can minimize them by having your child take the medication with food.

It is important to inform your doctor if you notice any side effects in your child, including mood or personality changes. Tell your doctor if your child is more anxious, irritable or sad for long periods. It is important to describe when these changes occur and how intense they are.

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