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Atomoxetine (Strattera) strengthens the chemical signals between brain cells and also increases certain brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, to improve concentration. It is not a stimulant.
Atomoxetine is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, teens, and adults.
It is sometimes recommended instead of stimulant medicines, such as amphetamine (examples include Adderall XR) and methylphenidate (examples include Ritalin, Concerta, Biphentin) for people who have bothersome side effects from those medicines.
For example, about 10% to 35% of people with ADHD also have tics, such as spasms of the muscles of the face (facial tic), clearing the throat, sniffing, and excessive blinking. Stimulant medicines for ADHD may make tics worse. Research has found atomoxetine does not make tics worse.1
Several studies have shown atomoxetine to effectively control the symptoms of ADHD in children and adults.2
Atomoxetine does not start working as quickly as stimulant medicines. Reports suggest that full effects are often not seen until the person has been taking atomoxetine regularly for at least 3 or 4 weeks.
Possible side effects include:
Growth is sometimes slowed in children taking atomoxetine. But it is not known if this delay is permanent.
It is important for parents to be honest with their child about the possible risks and benefits of the medicine. Talk to your child about whether he or she is having any suicidal thoughts. Tell your child to come to you if he or she has suicidal thoughts in the future.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
Atomoxetine can be taken once or twice a day.
Atomoxetine may be an alternative for those people who have bothersome side effects from stimulants, such as nervousness, irritability, or tics.
Atomoxetine is more convenient than stimulant medicines because you can obtain prescription refills over the phone.
Unlike stimulant medicines, atomoxetine does not have the potential for abuse.
- Allen AJ, et al. (2005). Atomoxetine treatment in children and adolescents with ADHD and comorbid tic disorders. Neurology, 65(12): 1941–1949.
- Greydanus DE, et al. (2003). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: Interventions for a complex costly clinical conundrum. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 50(5): 1049–1092.
Last Revised: April 10, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
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