ADHD Medication Types and 10 Commonly Prescribed Medications

Medically Reviewed By Yalda Safai, MD, MPH

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder. People with the condition may experience difficulty paying attention, overactivity, or impulsive behavior. To manage ADHD, doctors may prescribe stimulants, non-stimulants, or antidepressants.

For many people, ADHD treatment combines behavior therapy and medication. Medications can’t cure ADHD, but they can help manage the symptoms.

Read on to learn more about the types of ADHD medication doctors may prescribe and their side effects, along with 10 common medications.

Types of ADHD medication

Pills falling from a person's hand onto a plate
Marc Tran/Stocksy United

There are a few main classes of ADHD medication.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Trusted Source National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Governmental authority Go to source , this class is the most commonly used for ADHD. Stimulants work by increasing the activity of the central nervous system (CNS) and promoting the release of norepinephrine and dopamine, which influence attention and thinking. They also prevent the body from reabsorbing these chemicals too quickly, making their activity in the brain last longer.

Stimulants can cause Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source various side effects depending on factors like your weight, how much you take, and how your body responds to the medication. Possible side effects include:


Doctors may prescribe non-stimulants as an accompanying treatment or a stand-alone therapy if stimulants are ineffective. They can also improve attention and focus in a person with ADHD, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source notes that they take longer to begin working.

According to the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) organization, possible side effects of non-stimulants include:


Included in the non-stimulant class, antidepressants can help regulate many of the brain chemicals involved in ADHD and relieve the symptoms. However, they are often prescribed off-label, meaning they haven’t been approved specifically to treat ADHD.

Side effects vary depending on the antidepressant but may include Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source :

Your doctor will want to know about serious side effects, such as drastic personality changes or suicidal thoughts. Contact your doctor right away if your ADHD medication seems to be causing more harm than it is helping.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

  • Call 988. 
  • Chat with the lifeline.

This service is available 24/7. 

Learn more about talking with your doctor about ADHD treatment.

10 commonly prescribed ADHD medications

Below are 10 medications doctors commonly prescribe for ADHD.

  1. Amphetamine-dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Adderall XR): This is a stimulant combination. You take the immediate-release tablet twice daily, about 4–6 hours Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source apart. The long-acting capsule is a once-daily medication you take early in your day. Taking stimulants soon after you wake up may decrease the risk of sleep problems.
  2. Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine): This is a stimulant. It comes as a liquid, tablet, and long-acting capsule. Like other stimulants, your doctor may recommend taking it soon after you wake up. For the liquid and tablet, you usually repeat the dose 4 to 6 hours later.
  3. Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse): This is a stimulant, taken once daily.
  4. Atomoxetine (Strattera): This is a non-stimulant. You will take it either once or twice daily Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source .
  5. Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL): This is an antidepressant. You take the immediate-release tablet 3 times a day. Wellbutrin SR is a twice-daily medication and Wellbutrin XL has once-daily dosing.
  6. Clonidine (Kapvay): This is a non-stimulant. The extended-release tablet is used Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source for ADHD treatment.
  7. Guanfacine (Intuniv): This is a non-stimulant. It is a long-acting medication you take once a day.
  8. Methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin, Daytrana, others): This is a stimulant. Methylphenidate comes in a variety of dosage forms, including a patch, liquid, long-acting liquid, capsule, intermediate-acting tablet, long-acting capsule, long-acting tablet, and long-acting chewable tablet.
  9. Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin, Focalin XR): This is a stimulant. It comes as a tablet and a long-acting capsule. You take the tablet twice daily, about 4 hours apart. You take the long-acting capsule once a day.
  10. Modafinil (Provigil): This is a stimulant that may be Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source prescribed off-label for children with ADHD, meaning it’s not specifically approved for the condition. It comes in pill form, usually taken once a day.

Finding the right choice for you may involve some trial and error. After starting treatment, your doctor will carefully monitor the dose of medication. The goal is to get the most benefit with the least amount of side effects.

Your doctor may also recommend other treatments in addition to medications, such as behavior therapy.

Learn more about what to expect with behavior therapy for ADHD.


It’s important to talk with your doctor about your ADHD medication, especially if you experience side effects or have other problems with it. You may be able to switch to a different medication and get better results.

Don’t stop taking your ADHD medication without checking with your doctor first. Also, keep in mind that ADHD medication is often just one part of an overall treatment plan. Continue working with your doctor on other strategies to manage your symptoms.

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Medical Reviewer: Yalda Safai, MD, MPH
Last Review Date: 2023 Jun 9
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