Strattera Non-Stimulant ADHD Medication

An Alternative to Traditional ADHD Drugs

Strattera (atomoxetine) is the first non-stimulant drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults and children over age 6. This mental health condition impacts attention, self-control, and the ability to sit still.

The medication is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. These drugs are thought to work by increasing the amount of norepinephrine in the brain. This chemical messenger impacts behavioral control, attention, motivation, memory, and learning.

Strattera has been shown to work as well as stimulant drugs, such as Ritalin (methylphennidate), in reducing ADHD related symptoms in children and adolescents.

Blue capsules spilling out of a blue pill bottle.
Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

This article explains how Strattera works. It also covers its warnings, as well as what research on Strattera has found.

What Does Strattera Do?

Exactly how Strattera works is unknown. But, it is thought to help reduce symptoms of ADHD by increasing the norepinephrine levels in the brain.

Norepinephrine is associate with managing your:

  • Level of awareness
  • Level of arousal
  • Motivation
  • Ability to focus
  • Memory consolidation and retrieval, which describes processing and converting new memories into long-term memories, as well as the ability to access older memories
  • Learning abilities
  • Feelings of reward

Within one to two weeks, you may begin to notice a symptom reduction. However, it can take up to six weeks before you notice a significant change.

Unlike stimulant drugs like Adderall (dextroamphetamine-amphetamine), Strattera is not associated with extremely happy or high feelings. This is because, unlike stimulants, Strattera does not impact dopamine, a brain chemical associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.

What Are the Warnings for Strattera?

Strattera has an FDA warning for an increased risk of suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents. If your child is using this medication, be sure to watch for:

  • New or increased thoughts of suicide
  • Any changes in mood or behavior
  • Increased irritability or anxiousness

Watch your child especially closely during the first few months of treatment and during any dose changes. Reach out to their healthcare provider right away if you notice anything concerning.

This warning doesn't mean that your child can't be prescribed Strattera or that they should stop taking it if it is working well for them. Instead, the benefits of taking Strattera should be weighed against the possible risks of the drug.

In addition to this warning, your healthcare provider will not prescribe or will recommend stopping Strattera if there are signs of:

Never stop Strattera without a provider's OK.

Research on Strattera

Research on Strattera indicates:

  • This medication is as effective as stimulant drugs in improving school and social related functioning impacted by symptoms of ADHD.
  • Some individuals, especially children, may have difficulty swallowing the capsule. Research on a liquid form of atomoxetine found that it works as well as the capsule and tastes acceptable.
  • In clinical trials, common side effects for children and adolescents included nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, exhaustion, and an upset stomach.
  • Long-term studies have found that children's growth seemed to slow during the start of treatment. However, it tended to return to expected averages after two years. This seemed to impact younger children more than adolescents.
  • Strattera is processed by the liver and can lead to drug interactions with other medications that may increase its effects. Examples include certain antidepressant medications like Paxil (paroxetine) and Prozac (fluoxetine), as well as the heart medication Quinidex (quinidine).

Summary

Strattera is a non-stimulant drug used to treat symptoms of ADHD in adults and children over the age of 6. It is thought to work by increasing norepinephrine levels in the brain, which are associated with awareness, motivation, learning, memory, and ability to focus.

Strattera has an FDA warning for increased risk of suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents. If your child is taking this medication, reach out to their doctor right away if you notice any concerning changes in their behavior.

A Word From Verywell

Since it is not a controlled substance, Strattera is available with a regular prescription. This means that doctors can call it into a pharmacy and order refills, unlike stimulants, which require a new prescription each month.

Your child's pediatrician may have samples available for them to try.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does Strattera make you feel?

    Strattera may make you feel more focused, less hyperactive, and less impulsive, but this may vary from person to person. Some individuals may experience side effects that lead to sleepiness or low energy.

  • Is Strattera a controlled substance?

    No. Strattera is not classified as a controlled substance.

  • What is the difference between Strattera and Adderall?

    Strattera is a non-stimulant drug, while Adderall is a stimulant drug. Unlike Strattera, Adderall has a high potential for abuse.

Was this page helpful?
12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Strattera (atomoxetine hcl).

  2. MedlinePlus. Atomoxetine.

  3. Shang CY, Shih HH, Pan YL, Lin HY, Gau SSF. Comparative efficacy of methylphenidate and atomoxetine on social adjustment in youths with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorderJournal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. 2020;30(3):148-158. doi:10.1089/cap.2019.0139

  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Label: strattera-atomoxetine hydrochloride capsule.

  5. National Library of Medicine. Noradrenaline and behavior.

  6. Wietecha LA, Clemow DB, Buchanan AS, Young JL, Sarkis EH, Findling RL. Atomoxetine increased effect over time in adults with attention‐deficit/hyperactivity disorder treated for up to 6 months: pooled analysis of two double‐blind, placebo‐controlled, randomized trialsCNS Neurosci Ther. 2016;22(7):546-557. doi:10.1111/cns.12533

  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Prescription stimulants drugfacts.

  8. Nakano M, Witcher J, Satoi Y, Goto T. Pharmacokinetic profile and palatability of atomoxetine oral solution in healthy japanese male adultsClin Drug Investig. 2016;36(11):903-911. doi:10.1007/s40261-016-0430-y

  9. Turan S, Akay AP. The effects of atomoxetine on weight, height, and body mass index in Turkish children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorderPsychiatry and Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2019;29(4):781-786. doi:10.1080/24750573.2019.1637393

  10. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Atomoxetine (strattera).

  11. American Academy of Pediatrics. Non-stimulant medications available for adhd treatment.

  12. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Adderall (CII).