Stimulant medications have been the traditional treatment for ADHD for many years. Some people, however, do not tolerate these types of medications, cannot take them because of other medical conditions, find they do not help or are not comfortable using stimulant medication. Strattera, a non-stimulant medication has been approved to treat ADHD: Strattera but some doctors also prescribe blood pressure medications, such as clonidine (Catapres) and guanfacine (Tenex, Intuniv), to help manage ADHD symptoms.
Some of these medications are prescribed off-label, which means they are prescribed for a use other than what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved them for based on clinical data and experience. For example, Tenex has been approved to treat children between the ages of 6 and 17 but Catapres has not been approved to treat ADHD.
Guanfacine (Intuniv, Tenex) has been found to help improve the following symptoms:
Clonidine (Catapres) has been found to help improve:
This medication does not work well in increasing attention and focus.
Side Effects of Blood Pressure Medications
As with all medications, these drugs may have certain side effects. Often, side effects will disappear within a few weeks of taking the medication; however, if any of the following symptoms interfere with your ability to function in your daily life or persist, you should speak with your doctor.
Some of the common side effects:
- Nausea or stomach upset
- Sinus congestion
- Blurry vision
- Dryness of mouth
- Irregular heart beat
Because these medications are meant to lower blood pressure, there is also a risk of this happening. Your doctor may rule out these types of medication if you, or family members, have a history of low blood pressure or heart disease.
Possible Interactions with Stimulant Medications
For some people, combining stimulant medication with either clonidine or guanfacine can help reduce some of the unwanted side effects of stimulant medicate, such asinsomnia, nervousness and aggression. However, there have been some deaths in children who combined stimulants and Catapres. Although it has not been determined that combining these medications contributed to the cause of death, caution should be used if both types of medication are taken together. You should be closely monitored by your physician for irregular heart rhythms and changes in blood pressure. Some doctors may require regular electrocardiograms while on both medications. With careful screening and monitoring, both medications may work well for some people.
As with all medications, you should make your doctor aware of all other medications, including vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter medications, and discuss possible interactions with these medications. You should also tell your doctor if you are pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant before starting these medications.
“ADD / ADHD Medications,” Reviewed 2010, Sept, Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D, HelpGuide.org
“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Nonstimulant Therapy (Strattera) and Other ADHD Drugs,” 1995-2009, Staff Writer, Cleveland Clinic
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.