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ADHD

21 min read

Strattera for ADHD: is it right for you?

Written by Patricia Weiser, PharmD

Published: Jul 10, 2024

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Paul Hetrick

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Struggling with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and considering taking Strattera ADHD medication? Strattera, also known by its generic name, atomoxetine, is a non-stimulant option for treating ADHD.

Understanding what options are available and how they work can help you make informed decisions regarding ADHD treatment. This article explores what Strattera is, how it works, how it compares to other medications for ADHD, and more.

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Why Strattera for ADHD?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Strattera (atomoxetine) in 2002, making it the first non-stimulant medication approved for treating ADHD symptoms in adults and kids ages 6 and older. 

Strattera is proven to help with ADHD by increasing attention and reducing impulsiveness. Compared to stimulant medications, like Ritalin, Strattera takes longer to start working but it’s still effective. It’s a good alternative if you don’t want to take stimulants or if they don’t work for you. 

Note that brand-name Stattera is no longer available. As of November 2023, the drug manufacturer, Eli Lilly, discontinued all strengths of Strattera due to declining sales after the generic version came out in 2017. The generic drug, atomoxetine, is still available.

One reason to consider trying atomoxetine is because it’s available. Drug shortages have affected several ADHD medications in recent years, but not Strattera. Currently, the FDA isn’t reporting any shortages of atomoxetine (generic Strattera). Your pharmacy is likely to have it in stock. If not, they can typically get it within a few days.  

How Strattera works for ADHD and ADHD symptoms

Strattera is a non-stimulant ADHD medication. It belongs to a drug class called selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (NRIs). There are several key differences between stimulant vs non-stimulant medications, such as:

  • How they work: Stimulants calm ADHD by stimulating the central nervous system. They increase the activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which is thought to reduce ADHD symptoms. Strattera, on the other hand, works by making more norepinephrine available in the brain. It doesn’t affect dopamine.
  • How fast they work: Strattera takes longer to start working compared to stimulant medications. Stimulants start working within a couple of hours. But, for most people, it takes 1 to 4 weeks for Strattera to work. Studies suggest the medication is most effective after 6 to 12 weeks of treatment.
  • Potential for abuse: An upside of Strattera is that it isn’t addictive. Stimulant medications, like Adderall, may be misused and can cause addiction or physical dependence. Due to these risks, stimulants are controlled substances, which means strict laws have been put in place to ensure they’re prescribed and dispensed appropriately. Strattera doesn’t have these risks, and it’s not a controlled substance.

If you’ve tried other ADHD medications, you may wonder how Strattera compares. Next, we compare Strattera to some stimulant medications for ADHD.

How does Strattera compare to other ADHD meds

According to many Strattera reviews, it works just as well as other ADHD medications. Take a closer look at how they compare based on their approved uses, cost, and clinical trial results. 

Adderall vs Strattera 

There are several differences when comparing Adderall vs Strattera. The table below highlights some key differences.

AdderallStrattera
Active ingredientAmphetamine/dextroamphetamineAtomoxetine
Form(s)Oral tablet
Oral capsule (extended-release)
Oral capsule
FDA-approved usesTablet: 
ADHD in adults and children 3 years and older, Narcolepsy

Capsule (Adderall XR): 
ADHD in adults and children 6 years and older
ADHD in adults and children 6 years and older
Cost*Tablet: 
$24 to $64 per month, depending on dose

Capsule (ER): 
$16 to $52 per month, depending on dose
$107 to $140 per month, depending on dose
Most common side effects in adultsTrouble sleeping
Decreased appetite
Headache
Stomach pain
Constipation
Dry mouth
Nausea
Decreased appetite
Dizziness
Erectile dysfunction 
Trouble urinating 

*Costs shown are for the generic versions, without insurance, according to estimates from drugs.com and with their discount card.

There are other differences to be aware of if you’re considering switching from Adderall to Strattera. For example, you need to take Strattera every day for it to work effectively. With Adderall, some people take “drug holidays” where they skip the medication on weekends or vacations. This approach is an option with Adderall because it starts working within a few hours after you take a dose. But Strattera needs to build up in your system over a couple of weeks and requires daily dosing to maintain its effect. 

Strattera vs Ritalin

Comparing Strattera and Ritalin is a lot like comparing Strattera to Adderall. The table below highlights some notable differences.

RitalinStrattera
Active ingredientMethylphenidateAtomoxetine
Form(s)Oral tablet
Oral capsule (long-acting)
Oral capsule
FDA-approved usesTablet: 
ADHD in adults and children 6 years and older; Narcolepsy

Capsule (Ritalin LA): 
ADHD in kids ages 6–12
ADHD in adults and children 6 years and older
Cost*Tablet: 
$16 to $52 per month, depending on dose

Capsule (LA): 
$94 to $106 per month, depending on dose
$107 to $140 per month, depending on dose
Most common side effects in adultsFast heart rate
Abnormal heartbeat
Headache
Trouble sleeping
Decreased appetite
Dry mouth
Nausea
Constipation
Dry mouth
Nausea
Decreased appetite
Dizziness
Erectile dysfunction 
Trouble urinating 

*Costs shown are for the generic versions, without insurance, according to estimates from drugs.com and with their discount card.

If you’re considering a switch from Ritalin to Strattera, keep in mind that you’ll need to take Strattera every day for it to work. Like Adderall, some people take drug holidays with Ritalin, skipping their doses on weekends or holidays when they’re less likely to need the medication for controlling ADHD symptoms. 

Head-to-head studies comparing the efficacy of Ritalin vs Strattera have had mixed results. One study looked at the effect of these treatments in adults ages 18 to 50 years with ADHD. After 8 to 10 weeks, both groups showed improvement in ADHD symptoms. Notably, Strattera was shown to be more effective than Ritalin after 4 to 5 weeks of use. A review of multiple studies also compared methylphenidate to Strattera in children and adolescents with ADHD. The reviewers found that Ritalin and Strattera had similar effectiveness. 

Your results may be different from clinical studies. A healthcare provider can help determine which ADHD medication is suitable for you. 

Strattera alternatives

Strattera isn’t the only non-stimulant medication for ADHD. If you’re interested in finding an alternative to atomoxetine, ask a healthcare provider about the following non-stimulant ADHD medication options:

  • Kapvay (clonidine)
  • Intuniv (guanfacine)
  • Qelbree (viloxazine)

What dose of Strattera do I take?

Strattera comes as an oral capsule. The available strengths include 10, 18, 25, 40, 60, 80, and 100 milligrams. 

The dosage of Strattera can be different depending on your age, body weight, and how well it works for your ADHD symptoms. The starting dosage for adults and adolescents over 154 pounds is 40 milligrams per day. Smaller starting doses (10–25 milligrams) are typical for people weighing 154 pounds or less. Starting with a lower dose (10–40 milligrams) gives your body time to adjust to the medication. 

After a few days or weeks, your provider may increase your dose to 80 milligrams per day. This is the target dose that’s effective for most people, but some people may need a further increase to the maximum dose of 100 milligrams. You may need a lower dose if you have liver problems or if you take certain medications that interact with atomoxetine. Talk to a healthcare provider to see what dose is right for you.

Most people take Strattera as a single dose daily in the morning. Your provider may suggest taking Strattera twice a day, with the first dose in the morning and the second dose in late afternoon or early evening. You can take Strattera with or without food. Swallow the capsules whole without opening them.

What side effects does Strattera have?

Like other medications, side effects can happen with Strattera. Some of the more common side effects include: 

  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Drowsiness 
  • Constipation 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Dizziness 
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure

You may experience weight loss with Strattera. In a clinical study, 2% of adults lost weight while taking Strattera. While the exact amount of weight loss wasn’t reported, Strattera isn’t likely to cause much of a weight change for adults, and it isn’t used to help people lose weight. 

Children and adolescents taking Strattera for ADHD may experience some weight loss or slowed growth, especially when treatment starts. Long-term studies suggest that kids’ growth tends to catch up over time, with weight gain seen after 9 to 12 months of Strattera treatment. It’s recommended to monitor the height and weight of kids and teens taking Strattera.

What else do I need to know about Strattera?

Strattera isn’t a safe option for everyone. This medication may cause rare but serious side effects, such as mental health changes and liver damage. It also has a boxed warning for the risk of suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents. 

It’s unsafe to take Strattera if you have pheochromocytoma (a rare condition that causes tumors in the adrenal glands and leads to high blood pressure), a certain type of glaucoma (high pressure in the eye), or had an allergic reaction to it in the past. Before taking Strattera, tell your prescriber about your health history, pregnancy status, and breastfeeding plans if applicable. 

It also has several drug interactions, especially with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and medications that affect blood pressure, such as decongestants. Share a list of your current medications and supplements with your healthcare provider, so they can make sure Strattera is safe for you.

Is Strattera right for you?

  • Strattera (atomoxetine) is a non-stimulant medication. It’s an effective treatment for ADHD. The FDA approved it in 2002 for treating ADHD in adults and children 6 years and older. 
  • Strattera is an alternative for those who can’t tolerate or prefer not to take stimulants, like Adderall or Ritalin. It takes longer to start working but is effective in increasing attention and reducing impulsiveness. Unlike stimulants, Strattera isn’t addictive. 
  • Despite the brand Strattera being discontinued, the generic atomoxetine remains available without reported shortages. Consult a healthcare provider to determine if Strattera is the right ADHD medication for you. 

Talk to a healthcare expert about Strattera

There are many options for treating ADHD and choosing the right medication for you is important. Ready to start treatment, or find better options to treat your ADHD? Find a provider on Klarity in as little as 24 hours.

FAQs about Strattera for ADHD

Is there a downside to Strattera?

There can be downsides to Strattera depending on your medical history and preferences. It can take several weeks to become fully effective for ADHD symptoms. It also has several side effects and precautions. Talk to a healthcare provider to see if Strattera is appropriate for you. 

What’s the difference between Strattera and Adderall?

Both Adderall and Strattera treat ADHD, but there are several differences between them. One example is how long they take to work. Adderall starts working within a few hours, while Strattera takes weeks. Another difference is that some people misuse Adderall or become addicted to it, but Strattera doesn’t carry these risks. 

Will Strattera make me gain weight?

Possibly, but it isn’t a common side effect. During Strattera’s clinical trials, weight loss was a reported side effect in 2% to 3% of participants. Changes in growth rate can happen in teens taking Strattera, especially with long-term use. Address any concerning weight changes with a healthcare professional. 

How does Strattera compare to Concerta or Vyvanse?

Both Concerta and Vyvanse are effective for ADHD. When comparing Strattera vs Concerta, you’ll notice a few key differences, such as: 

  • Concerta (methylphenidate extended-release tablet) is a stimulant and a controlled substance. It comes with a boxed warning for abuse, misuse, and addiction 
  • Concerta costs about $410 for a month’s supply, per drugs.com with its discount card

When comparing Strattera vs Vyvanse, key points include: 

  • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine) is a stimulant and a controlled substance. It comes with a boxed warning for abuse, misuse, and addiction 
  • Available forms of Vyvanse include capsules and chewable tablets 
  • Per drugs.com with its discount card, Vyvanse costs about $420 a month. The cost of the chewable tablets for Vyvanse is the same. Generic Vyvanse is roughly $180 a month. 

These ADHD medications have specific warnings and precautions. Have a conversation with your healthcare provider to decide which treatment option may be right for you. 

Which is better, Strattera or Focalin?

The best option for you really depends on your specific medical history and needs. The highlights when comparing Strattera vs Focalin are: 

  • Both treat ADHD 
  • Focalin (dexmethylphenidate) is a stimulant and controlled substance. It comes with a boxed warning for abuse, misuse, and addiction 
  • Focalin comes in immediate- and extended-release capsules 
  • Focalin costs roughly $24 for a month’s supply, according to drugs.com with its discount card

Like other options, Focalin has its own warnings and precautions. In order to find the best medication for you, contact your healthcare provider. Your specific medical history plays a role in which medication is appropriate. 

Sources 

DailyMed, Guanfacine tablet, extended release Intuniv, Dec. 2022, 

https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=b972af81-3a37-40be-9fe1-3ddf59852528

DailyMed, Strattera – atomoxetine hydrochloride capsule, Feb. 2014, https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=b080e703-3fab-4914-8529-ffaa59da693d

drugs.com, Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine Prices, Coupons and Patient Assistance Programs, Jun. 2024

https://www.drugs.com/price-guide/amphetamine-dextroamphetamine

drugs.com, Atomoxetine Prices, Coupons and Patient Assistance Programs, Jun. 2024

https://www.drugs.com/price-guide/atomoxetine

drugs.com, Concerta Prices, Coupons and Patient Assistance Programs, Jun. 2024 https://www.drugs.com/price-guide/concerta

drugs.com, Intuniv Prices, Coupons and Patient Assistance Programs, Jun. 2024

https://www.drugs.com/price-guide/intuniv

drugs.com, Methylphenidate Prices, Coupons and Patient Assistance Programs, Jun. 2024

https://www.drugs.com/price-guide/methylphenidate

drugs.com, Vyvanse Prices, Coupons and Patient Assistance Programs, Jun. 2024

https://www.drugs.com/price-guide/vyvanse

National Institute of Mental Health, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Sept. 2023, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd 

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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4898838

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The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you have regarding your health.

If you’re having a mental health crisis or experiencing a psychiatric emergency, it’s crucial to seek immediate help from a mental healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. You can also call your local emergency services, visit your nearest emergency room, or contact a crisis hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, by calling or texting 988 or dialing the Lifeline’s previous phone number, 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) in the U.S.

How we reviewed this article: This article goes through rigorous fact-checking by a team of medical reviewers. Reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the author.

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All professional services are provided by independent private practices via the Klarity technology platform. Klarity Health, Inc. does not provide any medical services.
If you’re having an emergency or in emotional distress, here are some resources for immediate help: Emergency: Call 911. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 988. Crisis Text Line: Text Home to 741-741
Fax:
(855) 975-3008

PO Box 5098 Redwood City, CA 94063

100 Broadway Street, Redwood City CA, 94063

If you’re having an emergency or in emotional distress, here are some resources for immediate help: Emergency: Call 911. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 988. Crisis Text Line: Text Home to 741-741
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