Navigating the world of ADHD medications can be very confusing, especially when it comes to side effects. Stimulant medications are popular for treating ADHD because they help regulate dopamine levels in the brain, which can improve focus and reduce impulsivity. However, common side effects of these medications include restlessness and anxiety—which are also common symptoms of ADHD.
Fortunately, there are non-stimulant ADHD medications that deliver results while avoiding the side effects that come with stimulant substances. These medications give people with ADHD more treatment options with less risk of increasing their anxiety.
Whether your ADHD is minimally disruptive or affects every aspect of your life, non-stimulant medications can be a gentler alternative to more mainstream forms of treatment. In this article, we’ll outline which non-stimulant ADHD medication you should take.
If you want to get in front of a licensed ADHD specialist within the next 48 hours, schedule an appointment today or take our free self-evaluation.
Stimulant vs. Non-Stimulant ADHD Medication
ADHD medications work by leveling out the brain’s chemical levels to reduce symptoms. These medications come in two forms, stimulant and non-stimulant, each of them with its own benefits and disadvantages. Stimulant drugs are the most researched and prescribed form of ADHD medication, but they may not always manage symptoms effectively. Non-stimulant medications aren’t used as often, but they can be an effective alternative that improves overall concentration and impulse control.
One of the key advantages of non-stimulant ADHD medication is the reduced risk of addiction. Though they’re carefully controlled and monitored, stimulant medications always carry some risk of addiction, especially for those with a history of substance use disorder. Non-stimulants offer symptom regulation without many of the same addictive qualities, ensuring people can get the treatment they need without worrying about how it might lead to a more severe problem.
Below is a detailed list of the most popular non-stimulant medications, including what they are, how they work, and potential risks.
What is Strattera?
Strattera is the brand name for atomoxetine, a medication used to treat ADHD. It’s often used as part of a treatment plan with psychological or social treatments. It’s the first FDA-approved non-stimulant medication for the treatment of ADHD, and it’s recognized as an effective alternative to drugs like Adderall and Ritalin.
It’s available via prescription, and it should only be taken at the discretion of a medical professional to avoid any substance abuse or unpleasant side effects.
How Does Strattera Work?
Strattera is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), which means it raises norepinephrine activity in the brain. This increase in norepinephrine usage is thought to help improve attention and curb impulsive behavior, two things that people with ADHD often struggle with.
This non-stimulant medication may also raise dopamine levels in the brain, which is another chemical that typically fluctuates in those with ADHD and causes many of the same symptoms.
How Long Does Strattera Last?
Depending on a person’s age, weight, and the severity of their ADHD symptoms, one or two doses of Strattera may be required daily. If a person requires two doses, the first dose is best taken first thing in the morning, and the second dose is best taken in the late afternoon/early evening as the first dose wears off. This ensures that Strattera’s benefits last throughout the day while avoiding any insomnia that could result from taking the medication late at night.
What Are the Side Effects of Strattera?
Strattera has many of the same side effects as other ADHD medications. It is highly unlikely that every person who takes Strattera will experience every side effect, and some people may experience certain side effects differently from others.
Some of the most common side effects of this non-stimulant ADHD medication include:
- Upset stomach
- Loss of appetite/weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Trouble sleeping
- Decrease in sexual ability/desire
- High blood pressure
How Much Does Strattera Cost?
The cost of Strattera varies depending on the dosage and the number of capsules purchased. The generic formula, atomoxetine, can be as low as $44 for 7 of the 10 mg capsules and as high as $1,501 for 90 of the 100 mg capsules. Most health insurance companies cover the cost of generic Strattera.
What is Intuniv?
Intuniv is the brand name of guanfacine, an alpha-2 adrenergic agonist medication that can be used to treat ADHD. Similar to Strattera, this non-stimulant medication is often used in conjunction with other psychological, educational, and social treatments. Intuniv is most often prescribed to children and adolescents between ages 6 and 17 who cannot take stimulant-based medications due to medical or personal reasons.
How Does Intuniv Work?
It’s unclear exactly how Intuniv works to lessen ADHD symptoms, but it’s believed to affect receptors in the brain and strengthen memory, reduce distraction, and help with impulse control. While multiple forms of guanfacine are available via prescription, Intuniv is the only formula approved to treat ADHD.
How Long Does Intuniv Last?
Intuniv lasts all day and is taken orally in either the morning or evening. Your dosage may be increased as you become more acclimated to the medication’s effects, but it will still only have to be taken once daily.
What Are the Side Effects of Intuniv?
Intuniv is a non-stimulant ADHD medication with fewer side effects than Strattera and other ADHD medications.
Some of the most common Intuniv side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Stomach pain
- Low Blood Pressure
Intuniv is well-tolerated by most patients and doesn’t usually produce serious side effects. However, if you experience severe dizziness, slow heartbeat, fainting, or severe mood changes, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
How Much Does Intuniv Cost?
There is a considerable price disparity between brand-name Intuniv and generic guanfacine, with the generic medication being significantly cheaper. For a 1 mg dosage, 7 tablets of guanfacine cost as little as $24. Conversely, 90 tablets of a 4 mg dosage of Intuniv can cost as much as $905.
What is Kapvay?
Kapvay is the brand name for clonidine ER, which is an alpha-2 adrenergic agonist, just like Intuniv. It can be used either alone or as part of a treatment plan. Kapvay is less popular than similar drugs, as it is typically more expensive.
How Does Kapvay Work?
Like Intuniv, it is not clear how Kapvay works to treat ADHD. The medication affects certain receptors in the brain, so it’s believed that these receptors manage the behaviors associated with ADHD symptoms. Its non-stimulant composition makes it favorable for children and adolescents, but it can also be prescribed for adults.
How Long Does Kapvay Last?
Kapvay is an extended-release non-stimulant ADHD medication, so one dosage should last all day, but it can be taken twice daily if needed. Kapvay is prescribed in a very small 0.1 mg dosage and shouldn’t be taken more than twice a day. This will help prevent severe side effects and potential dependence on the drug.
What Are the Side Effects of Kapvay?
Kapvay has many of the same side effects as Intuniv, as it falls under the same class of drugs. Allergic reactions to Kapvay are rare, and very few people report experiencing serious side effects.
Some of the most common side effects when taking Kapvay include:
- Dry mouth
To reduce the risk of lightheadedness and dizziness, get up slowly when rising from a sitting or lying position. If you experience dry mouth from taking Kapvay, suck on sugarless lozenges or ice chips, drink water, or use a saliva substitute.
How Much Does Kapvay Cost?
The brand name Kapvay can be expensive, but the generic clonidine ER is usually a less expensive alternative. The 30 clonidine ER tablets can be as low as $71, while 60 tablets of brand name Kapvay may cost $516. This non-stimulant ADHD medication is covered by a majority of health insurance providers, and it is possible to reduce the price through various coupons and discounts.
What is Qelbree?
Qelbree, the brand name version of viloxazine, is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) often used as a part of a treatment plan that includes behavioral therapy. Qelbree is only effective in treating children and adolescents ages 6 to 17, so it’s not recommended for adults.
How Does Qelbree Work?
Like Strattera, Qelbree works by adjusting how the brain uses the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, often resulting in increased focus, reduced impulsivity, and regulation of many other ADHD-related symptoms.
How Long Does Qelbree Last?
One capsule of Qelbree lasts all day, and the dosage can be adjusted depending on how you react to the medication. Qelbree’s starting dose is typically 100 mg, but it can be raised to a maximum 400 mg dose if needed. If you have kidney problems, this dosage will have to be carefully managed to prevent any complications.
What Are the Side Effects of Qelbree?
Qelbree has minimal side effects, making it a generally safe non-stimulant ADHD medication compared to some others. That said, the side effects it does have could become more serious and should be carefully monitored. If you have severe side effects like a fast heartbeat or you experience an allergic reaction such as trouble breathing or rash, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
The most common side effects of Qelbree include:
- Decreased appetite
How Much Does Qelbree Cost?
Qelbree doesn’t have a generic alternative available for purchase, making it much less flexible in cost when compared to similar ADHD medications. Prices for Qelbree can be as low as $39 for 3 of the 100 mg capsules, and they can get as high as $1,199 for 90 of the 200 mg capsules.
Which is the Best Non-Stimulant ADHD Medication For You?
Of the non-stimulant ADHD medications listed above, Strattera is the one most often prescribed. It has been found to reduce ADHD symptoms in children who did not respond to stimulant medication, and it has been shown to be helpful in treating all subtypes of ADHD. Strattera is also more effective in treating ADHD in adults than the aforementioned medications, which are usually used to treat childhood ADHD.
Although Strattera may be more widely useful, it may not be the right medication for everyone. To get the non-stimulant medication that’s right for you, speak to a healthcare provider about your symptoms, medical history, and allergies.
How Klarity Pairs You With the Right ADHD Medication
Klarity can connect you with licensed and certified healthcare providers that specialize in personalized ADHD treatment and non-stimulant ADHD medications.
With an initial online visit, you can receive an evaluation and treatment plan based on your current conditions and medical history. After your healthcare provider determines which medication is best for you, they’ll set you up with a one-month prescription if applicable so you can try it and see how well it works. If the medication works well for you, and without severe side effects, it might be an option for you to receive the direct prescription from your provider on Klarity.
ADHD can be disruptive, but you don’t have to manage your symptoms alone. Schedule an appointment with an ADHD specialist on Klarity today to receive ADHD treatment or diagnosis if applicable.