Pros and Cons of non stimulants ADHD meds

My son was diagnosed at age 5 with ADHD. He was on focalin for three yrs and during so his focalin was gradually increased, even adding a short acting focalin in the afternoon, until it just no longer was working. He was then placed on vyvanse. Which I guess I should have started out I, myself have anxiety and take daily medication for. I have seen this in my son for yrs, it and the impulsive behavior is actually the reason I decided to medicate him for ADHD, after talking with his doctor. The vyvanse gave him horrible headaches, but the school yr was almost over with, so we only decreased his dose. It was close to the end of summer and he was put on concerta. Not long afterwords, he had to be placed on clonidine (melatonin and/or Benadryl no longer worked, as suggested by his doctor). It wasn’t long even before he was maxed out on his dose of clonidine. I didn’t/don’t like him on this medication, the concerta. I hate having to change his medication again, because who knows what side effect the next one will have. He’s been on the concerta for nearly 2 yrs, minus weekends and anytime off of school (because I hate it). He doesn’t want to eat with it, I have to beg him to go play outside and not to mention I feel it makes him more anxious. Over Christmas break we started Prozac (lowest dose) for his anxiety, so I could closely monitor him on it. He was out of school so I was not giving him his concerta. Once school started back he started back on the concerta with the Prozac. He was happy, giggling all the time, getting into trouble at school, cussing, taking things that didn’t belong to him. He wasn’t sleeping, doing things he had no recollection of. Climbed out the second floor window one morning because I told him he didn’t need to go to school to go lay down back in bed with the light off, he was determined to go to school though. Red flags immediately went off because he’s absolutely terrified of heights. Called the therapists office because his therapist recently left the practice with no real warning, no one would see him or work him in. Only option left was er. 9 days later he was discharged from the hospital. The Prozac and concerta combined is what caused his reaction. He’s no longer on the Prozac and his Concerta’s been decreased to the lowest dose, fine at home but another story if trying to focus on anything very long. I just would like to hear from anyone that has tried the non stimulants, pros and cons. I really don’t know what else to do. Things can’t stay the way they are though.

I can't advise you what is best for your son, Melanie, but can only share my own experience. My kids did not fare at all well on stimulants, and some of the fallout stuck with them for years afterwards. We abandoned medication pretty quickly and went the unmedicated route. Daily exercise was a big part of the plan. Dance class helped a lot with self-discipline. Given the range of difficulties your son has had with medications, it may be time to seek out a therapist who uses other methods to help people cope with ADHD.

Hi Melanie,

I can only speak for my own experience with my son. His anxiety increased when he was on Concerta. However, we have found that a combination of Focalin which is a stimulant and Strattera (non-stimulant) has worked well for him. I also make sure he gets plenty of exercise, limit his video games and continue with the behavioral therapy with his psychologist. I would encourage you to continue to work with your doctor as well as look into alternate therapies. Good luck to you.

Yesterday we seen a psychologist . He’s going to meet with her every 3 weeks to just work on controlling his anger and anxiety. She has to refer us to the psychiatrist. I told her I really felt like maybe we should try a non stimulant. When Aidan was first diagnosed, I don’t understand why they don’t push non stimulants vs stimulants (especially young children, seems safer). I just recently was googling more about ADHD and found out on my own. I’ve always stated from day one I felt like he has anxiety also (I have it, my mom has it, it runs in the family). He’s so super intelligent and advanced for his age, but he struggles to keep up with his classmates. I always make it a point to address his ADHD to his teachers every new school yr. He’s super smart, needs lots of redirecting, and is super slow (I call him my turtle). We’ve always been blessed with wonderful teachers and I knew it was bound to happen sooner or later, we just have an awful teacher. It’s not just him, there are several others, even staff members that notice such. He’s always been straight a’s, this yr last 9 weeks he made a’s but has a 69 in deportment (overall behavior). He got a demerit for reading his ar book for an hour and half while he was given the opportunity to work on an assignment due at the end of the week. Which he turned in on time. Before school started one morning he and some other classmates were talking while the teacher was out of the room, he said she was “evil and cruel”. Someone told on him and without question he was taken to the principles office where I was called. Here he is getting in so much trouble already and honestly he’s not doing anything wrong in my opinion but he’s on medication. Seriously I would like to send him without meds for 2 weeks, so maybe she would appreciate the medication some but he gets in enough trouble now as it is with the medication. I would feel awful if he were to get into even more. Me, I’m fine without any meds for him. Sure things get chaotic, stressful at times, but the majority of the time it’s more comical than harmful. We have to work that much harder, but at home that’s fine. It just seems the concerta makes him that much more anxious and to me that’s what’s hard to deal with. I just feel so bad for him, moms are supposed to make things better.

Is there any possibility of a different school environment?

There are and I have even thought about home schooling, he doesn’t want to go to another school though. I know from experience how hard changing schools can be at 10. He acts like it doesn’t bother him, I think it bothers me more as his mom.

Hi Melanie. My 7.5 yr old son is dx w/ ADHD and Tourettes, mostly with motor tics. We'd been using natural supplements until the middle of 1st grade, when we realized they just weren't helping enough, and decided to try medication. B/c of the Tourette's we have not tried any of the stimulant meds. Our pediatrician suggested Intuniv (extended release guanfacine) b/c it has been used to treat Tourettes and also used for ADHD (although normally along with a stimulant). Started at 1 mg for 2 months, then bumped up to 2 mg for over a year, which helped tremendously with hyperactivity and ticcing, helped somewhat with focus, but didn't really help at all with impulsivity. Two months ago, bumped to 3 mg b/c pediatrician thought that would help the impulsivity. We are going back down to 2 mg b/c of headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, blurry vision, and fatigue throughout the day. Overall, I'm happy with the help it's given him since the hyperactivity and ticcing were his biggest challenges, and am looking for other ways to help the impulsivity (counseling).

My biggest fear is that guanfacine was developed as a blood pressure reducer. And no one can tell me what long-term risks or consequences there are to artificially lowering a person's blood pressure over an extended period of time. My mommy instinct just doesn't feel this is a "good idea"!! I think the reason non-stims aren't automatically prescribed over the stimulants is that they come with their own set of problems!!

"Mom's are supposed to make things better". You have and you will :), just by listening to your son in good times and bad, and rising to the challenges of raising a family. I have such respect for parents and kids for the love and teamwork they practice daily. It's hard to make it through the struggles, so here's hoping you're blessed with the energy and patience you need at those times.