Other Drugs

It is important to note that only the medicines described above have been “proven safe and effective” for ADD. Several other drugs have been said to help ADD, and are sometimes used despite the lack of scientific proof. It would be most honest to consider any treatment with drugs beyond those outlined above for ADD to be “experimental in nature”. My own viewpoint is to think that if a child needs some other drug beyond those for “ADD”, the diagnosis is probably wrong or incomplete in the first place.

  • Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) – This is a class of anti-depressants which is different from TCA’s that has been with us now for about 20 years. It includes things like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Luvox. This class has become the most widely prescribed antidepressants in America for a very good reason – they work better and are safer than any anti-depressants which have come before, and they also work very well for all sorts of Anxiety Disorders, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). SSRI’s lack most of the side effects of the TCA’s and have no risk of cardiac arrhythmia. One does not need to monitor blood levels or EKG’s in someone on these medications. It is not surprising, therefore, that many people have tried them in children with ADD. There are mixed reports regarding results, but the preponderance of evidence at this point suggests that while SSRI’s can be very effective for counter-acting some of the side effects on personality, mood, and anxiety caused by stimulants, their direct effect on attention does not seem very pronounced.
  • Risperdal – This is a “major tranquilizer” which is most commonly used to treat psychosis and schizophrenia. It can also be quite useful in Autism or PDD. When used for those diseases, it is one of the newest major tranquilizers available to us, and has fewer side effects than those that came before it. However, a child with ADD is normally not psychotic and should not need to be medicated with such a strong tranquilizer. If child’s behaviors are so severe and so many other drugs have failed that they get to this medication, ADD is the least of their problems.
  • Lithium & Valproate (Depakote) – I list these two drugs here only because I have occasionally run into families who think that these medications are being prescribed for their child’s ADD. I am aware of no professionals and no literature suggesting these drugs work for ADD. Instead, these drugs are used for Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive Syndrome). Children are often diagnosed with both Bipolar Disorder and ADD, and in these cases, it is difficult to tell whether the ADD is part and parcel of the Bipolar Disorder symptomatology or whether it is a separate diagnosis unto itself. Likewise, because the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder are hard to recognize in pre-pubertal children, people later diagnosed as Bipolar often were first diagnosed as ADD in childhood. Before puberty, the overlap of symptoms in these two disorders is large. However, if a professional is prescribing one of these medications for your child, they probably think the child has Bipolar Disorder instead of or in addition to ADD.