ADHD Medication - Side EffectsSide Effects

ADHD medication can be an effective way to reduce symptoms of ADHD in children and young people. Some of the drugs prescribed are:  

All classes of ADHD medication have possible side-effects.  These are often temporary and can be helped by reducing the dose or changing the timing of the dose. 

Side effects like an upset stomach or headaches often go away after a child’s body has a few days to get used to the medication. But other common side effects, like decreased appetite, might not go away. There’s also a range in how children and young people experience side effects, from mild to significant. They can occur while the medication is working, or after it’s worn off.

Sometimes side effects go on for longer than a few days. In some cases, children find them so uncomfortable that changes need to be made. That might be a change in dosage or a change from one type of medication to another .

Young girl sitting on sofa with dad checking forehead for temperature

Side effects that you must do something about!

  • Your child may become irritable, aggressive, tearful or depressed. These effects are temporary and completely reversible on stopping treatment. You should contact your specialist or doctor as soon as possible. If you are worried, do not give any more doses of your medication until you have talked to your doctor.
  • If your child can feel their heart beating much faster than normal (they may say it is racing), contact your doctor straight away.
  • If your child starts being sick every few hours or has stomach pains, take them to your doctor or hospital straight away.

 Side Effect

How to manage
 Loss of appetite
  • Wait to see if things get better
  • Decrease the dose of medication
  • Encourage eating to increase call
 Weight loss
  • Take medication with or after food 
  • Take additional meals or snacks in the morning or evening when the effect of medication wears off
  • Reduce dose of medication
  • Stop medication over weekends
  • Take high calorie healthy foods
  • Referral to dietician
  • Assess for other causes of weight loss
Difficulties getting to sleep 
  • Ensure bedtime routine and sleep hygiene are in place
  • If taking a long acting medication
    • Reduce the dose
    • Start medication early in the morning before breakfast
    • Change formulation
 Tics
  • Reduce stimulant dose or stop medication
  • Restart medication to check if tics return
  • Consider other formulations – atomoxetine, clonidine or guanfacine

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