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Pharmacy and Medications

Adderall and children

08/24/2006

Question:

How does Adderall affect the minds and emotions of children? I would like to talk to a professional about Adderall.

Answer:

Adderall is a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine salts and is categorized as a central nervous system stimulant. It is used as part of a treatment program for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a behavioral problem that is characterized by a short attention span, low frustration tolerance, impulsivity, distractibility, and usually hyperactivity. It can result in poor school performance, difficulty in peer relationships, and parent/child conflicts. It is available as a regular release tablet and also as an extended-release capsule known as Adderall XR. Several generic versions of the regular release brand name product are available.

Improved attention spans, decreased distractibility, increased ability to follow directions or complete tasks, and decreased impulsivity and aggression have been noted when stimulants are prescribed for the treatment of ADHD. Patients who respond to prescribed doses of Adderal often seem calm and may appear slightly sedated compared to their normal state. This effect is often described as paradoxical, that is, counter to what is expected. The entire action of Adderal is based on stimulation, and patients taking doses beyond what is necessary to treat ADHD are likely to exhibit signs and symptoms of excess stimulation almost like those seen in untreated ADHD patients. However, there is no conclusive evidence that explains exactly how the medicine works for ADHD. Current research suggests that the modulation of serotonergic pathways by the amphetamines may contribute to the calming effects in the treatment of this disorder.

Adderal and similar stimulant medications are placed in schedule II according to the US Controlled Substance Act. They have a high potential for abuse and the administration of amphetamines for prolonged periods of time may lead to drug dependence. Misuse of amphetamines may cause sudden death and serious cardiovascular adverse events. Adderall and Adderall XR should be taken exactly as prescribed by the physician.

Because Adderal is a schedule II medicine in the United States, a new prescription must be written whenever a patient needs more medicine. Decreased appetite, anxiety, nervousness, and difficulty sleeping are common side effects. Regular visits to the physician to assess the treatment efficacy and occurrence of and the height and weight of a child are necessary while taking this medication. Your child's physician or a pharmacist who knows you can provide more information.

This response was prepared in part by Jennifer Ulm, a PharmD student at the University of Cincinnati College of Pharmacy.

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Response by:

Robert James Goetz, PharmD, DABAT
Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati