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What are nonstimulant ADHD medications?

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What are ADHD nonstimulant drugs?List of non-stimulants for ADHD
Nonstimulant ADHD medications, like atomoxetine and guanfacine, may provide effective symptom management with lower chances of dependence or withdrawal compared to ADHD stimulant drugs.
Medically reviewed by Ami Patel PharmD, BCPS
Written by Rashida Ruwa, RN
Updated on

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder typically classified into three types based on the predominant symptoms:

  • Predominantly inattentive ADHD: Difficulty maintaining focus, following instructions, or completing tasks. 
  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD: Persistent restlessness, fidgeting, and impulsivity.
  • Combined ADHD: Combination of inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive symptoms. This is the most common type of ADHD.

ADHD can be managed with psychotherapy and, in some cases, medications.

Nonstimulant ADHD meds may be effective for many people, particularly if you have difficulty tolerating the effects of stimulant medications or have the potential for developing substance use disorder. 

What are nonstimulant ADHD medications?

A few pills of nonstimulant ADHD medications
Marc Tran/Stocksy United

Nonstimulant ADHD meds are second-line treatments for symptoms of all types of ADHD. As opposed to stimulants, they are not controlled substances. This means they have a lower chance of causing dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

Nonstimulant ADHD meds may take longer to work compared to the fast-acting effect of stimulants, because they have an indirect effect on brain nerve signaling.

Your healthcare professional may recommend nonstimulants over stimulant ADHD medications if you have had moderate to severe side effects with stimulants, have a history of substance use disorder, or haven’t responded to treatment with stimulant drugs.

In some cases, a healthcare professional may combine nonstimulant ADHD meds with stimulants to achieve effective symptom management. 

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List of common nonstimulant medications for ADHD

Nonstimulant ADHD meds may include:

Atomoxetine (Strattera)

  • Indication: Treatment of ADHD in children over 6 years and adults. It helps manage symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
  • Most common side effects: Nausea, headaches, and decreased appetite. 
  • Dosage and frequency: Typically taken once per day, the dosage is adjusted based on individual response, starting at 40 milligrams (mg) per day for adults and 0.5 mg/kg (mg per kilogram) per day for children over 6 years and less than 70 kg.
  • FDA approval: Atomoxetine (Strattera) is FDA-approved for ADHD treatment.

Guanfacine (Intuniv)

  • Indication: Treatment of ADHD in children and adolescents ages 6–17 years. It is used to manage symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.
  • Most common side effects: Drowsiness, headaches, and stomach pain.
  • Dosage and frequency: Typically started at 1 mg per day, a doctor may increase the dosage to 4 mg per day based on individual response and determine your treatment duration.
  • FDA approval: Guanfacine (Intuniv) is FDA-approved for ADHD treatment.

Clonidine (Kapvay)

  • Indication: Same as guanfacine.
  • Most common side effects: Drowsiness, dry mouth, and constipation.
  • Dosage and frequency: The initial dosage is 0.1 mg per day, and a doctor may increase it to a target dose of 0.4 mg per day, divided into 2 doses. Doses are typically taken in the morning and evening.
  • FDA approval: Clonidine (Kapvay) is FDA-approved for ADHD treatment.

Viloxazine (Qelbree) 

  • Indication: Children and adolescents ages 6–17 years and adults with symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity.
  • Most common side effects: Decreased appetite, excessive sleepiness, and fatigue. 
  • Dosage and frequency: The recommended starting dose is 100 mg once per day, which can be adjusted to a target dose of 400 mg once per day. A doctor determines treatment duration.
  • FDA approval: Viloxazine (Qelbree) is an FDA-approved new medication for ADHD treatment.


Nonstimulant ADHD meds offer symptom relief with a lower chance of dependence and addiction. This is why they are not controlled substances. They may also lead to fewer side effects. 

Nonstimulant meds may take longer to relieve ADHD symptoms compared to stimulant medications. This is why they are often a second line of treatment. But they may be preferred by people who do not respond well to stimulants or who may have a higher chance of developing substance use disorder.

Consider talking with your healthcare professional to determine the most suitable treatment plan for managing your ADHD symptoms effectively.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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