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ADHD medications side effects

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Stomach upsets, weight loss and insomnia are all common side effects of ADHD drugs. These can be mild and may not last beyond the first few weeks of taking a medication.

Whether you will need to talk to your doctor about changing to a different medication will depend on the how well the medication is helping to manage ADHD symptoms and how the side effects are affecting daily life.

ADHD drugs and their side effects

There are 5 types of medication prescribed by ADHD specialists for ADHD: methylphenidate, dexamfetamine, lisdexamfetamine, atomoxetine and guanfacine.

These are all licensed for use by children and teenagers and atomoxetine is also available for adults who had symptoms of ADHD when they were children.

Doctors may start the medication at a low dose, then increase it as necessary to help avoid side effects.

Methylphenidate and dexamfetamine

Methylphenidate, dexamfetamine and lisdexamfetamine can all cause similar side effects, including:



Side effects of atomoxetine include:



Side effects of guanfacine include:

  • Tiredness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Dry mouth

Monitoring ADHD medicine

Doctors prescribing ADHD medication are likely to carry out regular checks to see if the medication is causing problems. These checks may include:

  • Blood pressure and heart rate monitoring
  • Height, weight and growth checks for children and young people
  • Measuring adult body mass index ( BMI)

It is also useful to keep a note of side effects from ADHD medication ready for the next doctor's appointment so you can discuss any changes of treatment or get further medication advice.

Some types of food may be linked to worsening of ADHD symptoms. Try to keep a track of this but do not change diet without first taking medical advice.

Tips for reducing side effects of ADHD medication

  • Take ADHD medication with food. If morning medication is taken after breakfast, there’s less risk of stomach upsets.
  • If there are sleep problems, ask your doctor about taking the morning dose of ADHD medication earlier in the day.
  • Limit caffeine as it can affect sleep. Many fizzy drinks popular with children contain caffeine as do coffee, tea and chocolate bars.


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Reviewed on May 09, 2017

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