Medicines for ADHD in children

Also known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Key points about ADHD medicines for children

  • Medicines for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children are used to support behaviour therapy.
  • Examples include methylphenidate, dexamfetamine and atomoxetine.
  • Find out more about ADHB medicines for children including information on side effects.
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Note: The information on this page is about medicines for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. For information about medicines for ADHD in adults, see medicines for ADHD in adults.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, medicines used to treat ADHD in children include:

Methylphenidate is the preferred first choice. Methylphenidate is available in a variety of tablets and capsules. It may take some time for your doctor and you to find the dose and timing that works best for your child/tamariki. Dexamfetamine or atomoxetine are usually prescribed if your child is unable to take methylphenidate or if it has not worked well to improve their symptoms. Read more about medicines and ADHD(external link) on the KidsHealth page. 

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the stimulant medicines (methylphenidate and dexamfetamine) are controlled medicines, which means they can only be prescribed in short courses.

For all medicines used for ADHD, your doctor will review your child regularly to assess the need for ongoing treatment. Your doctor may suggest your child has some time off their medicine (for a few days or up to 2 weeks) every now and then to see how well they can manage without medicine. If problems occur, the medicine can be re-started. It is important that you don't start or stop your child's medicine unless you have been told to by your doctor. Most children will need to continue taking medicine for several years. 

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Dr Peter Ou, GP, FRNZCGP, Auckland

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