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Guide to Psychiatric Medications for Children and Adolescents

Descriptions of psychiatric medications for treating child and adolescent psychiatric disorders; including benefits and side-effects.

The information below includes most of the medications used to treat child and adolescent psychiatric disorders. You will find the problems each medication might treat and some of the common side effects. This guide is intended to be informative and useful, but it is not comprehensive. Children should take these medications only under the careful supervision of their physicians.

Listed are only those adverse effects that occur more commonly and those that are rare but potentially serious. Always alert your physician about any other medications, over the counter pill and 'alternative treatments' that you may be taking.

Classes* of Psychiatric Medications:

*The class of a medication is often a useful way of grouping similar medications. However, there is no particular format or rule for this and therefore the class name is somewhat arbitrary. The name can signify it most common use (many of these medications can treat more than one disorder), its mechanism of action or rarely some side-effect.

The brand name of a medication is the name a company will use to sell its unique formulation of a medication. When a drug is first developed it will have two names. The first is the name which describes its chemical structure but is never used outside the laboratory. The second is what will be its generic name. This name will be used until the medication is approved by the FDA and ready to be sold to the public. Once the medication is ready for sale it will be given a brand name. After the patent expires other companies will be allowed to make the medication and it will generally be sold under the generic name. (The following example will illustrate the various names for a single medication. See if you can guess what the medication is from its chemical name: N-Methyl--[4-(trifluoromethyl)phenoxy]benzenepropanamine, Not sure? Its generic name is fluoxetine. Still not sure? The brand name is Prozac.

Class: Stimulants

Benefits: Treats the core symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) including, impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattention. There is very little documented difference in the effectiveness between the amphetamine and methylphenidate medicines. However, some children respond to one group better than another.

Side Effects: Loss of appetite, difficulty falling asleep, irritability and /or moodiness. Some children may develop tics while on the medicine while those with a tic disorder may find that the tics worsen. Both growth and weight should be monitored, since weight loss can occur, and there is some evidence that stimulants may cause a slowdown in growth. Very rarely they may cause hallucinations or exacerbate manic symptoms These medications can increase blood pressure and pulse slightly. Please tell your doctor if there are any relatives with a history of heart disease at an early age.

MEDICATION NAME NOTES
Brand Name Generic Name
Ritalin
Focalin
Methylin
Methylin Chewable
Methylin Liquid
methylphenidate These are short acting—generally lasting about 3-4 hours.
Concerta
Focalin XR
Metadate CD
Ritalin LA
Daytrana Patch
methylphenidate These are long acting—generally lasting about 8-12 hours. Each one is formulated somewhat differently but there is generally no way to determine which will last the longest for any individual.
Daytrana is the newest and uses a patch to deliver methylphenidate through the skin. The patch may cause some skin irritation.
Dexedrine
Dextrostat
Adderall
amphetamine These are short acting—generally lasting about 3-6 hours. Each one is formulated somewhat differently but there is generally no way to determine which will last the longest for any individual. Adderall is a mixture of different forms of amphetamine (amphetamine salts).
Adderall XR amphetamine salts Lasts 8-10 hours
Dexedrine Spansules amphetamine

Lasts 8-10 hours

 


 

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Last Updated: 19 March 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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