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Strattera vs. Adderall: Risks, Side Effects, and More

Introduction

Strattera and Adderall are both medications commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They’re designed to help improve your attention span while decreasing hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Adderall is also an effective treatment for narcolepsy.

Strattera is the brand-name version of the drug atomoxetine, and Adderall is the brand-name version of the combination drug amphetamine/dextroamphetamine. Although they’re both used primarily to treat ADHD, Adderall and Strattera are very different medications. Here’s a comparison of their uses, side effects, interactions, and more.

Drug features

Strattera is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. It’s not exactly known how it works to improve symptoms of ADHD.

Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant. It works by increasing the release of neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are linked to ADHD. Increasing their release is thought to decrease ADHD symptoms.

The table below summarizes other important features of these drugs.

Brand nameStratteraAdderall
What is the generic name?atomoxetineamphetamine/dextroamphetamine
Is a generic version available?noyes
What does it treat?ADHDADHD, narcolepsy
What form(s) does it come in?oral capsuleoral tablet, extended-release oral capsule
What strengths does it come in?10 mg, 18 mg, 25 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg, 80 mg, 100 mg oral tablet: 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg; extended-release oral capsule: 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, 30 mg
Who is it approved for?adults and children 3 years and olderadults and children 6 years and older
What is the typical length of treatment?ask your doctor ask your doctor
Is this a controlled substance*?noyes
Is there a risk of withdrawal†?noyes
Does this drug have potential for misuse¥?noyes
 
* A controlled substance is a drug that is regulated by the government. If you take a controlled substance, your doctor must closely supervise your use of the drug. Never give a controlled substance to anyone else.

If you’ve been taking this drug for longer than a few weeks, do not stop taking it without talking to your doctor. You’ll need to taper off of the drug slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, sweating, nausea, and sleeping trouble.

¥ This drug has a high misuse potential. This means you can get addicted to it. Be sure to take this drug exactly as your doctor tells you to. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your doctor.

Adderall is approved to treat ADHD in adults and children who are 3 years or older. You may take your dose once or twice per day based on your doctor’s instructions. To help reduce your risk of insomnia, don’t take it late at night.

Strattera may be used in adults and children who are 6 years or older. Your doctor will tell you to take it once or twice per day. Be sure to swallow the capsules whole. Do not open them up.

FDA warnings

Adderall and Strattera each have black box warnings, which are the most serious warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Strattera has a black box warning for suicide risk in children and teens.

Adderall contains two black box warnings that indicate the potential for abuse and the potential for cardiac events. The drug can be quite habit forming. Adderall may also cause sudden death and serious heart-related issues. Talk to your doctor to learn more about these warnings.

Keep reading: Why students are misusing ADHD drugs »

Side effects

Like most medications, Adderall and Strattera have side effects. The chart below lists examples of side effects of Strattera and Adderall.

Common side effectsStratteraAdderall
nauseaX
upset stomachX
vomitingXX
loss of appetiteXX
mood swingsXX
nervousness X
dry mouthXX
headache X
weight loss X
insomnia X
fatigueX
constipationX
dizzinessXX
 

Although these drugs share several common side effects, their serious side effects are quite different. The table below lists the serious side effects of these drugs.

StratteraAdderall Both
heart-related problems, especially in people with heart diseaseheart attack or stroke, especially in people with heart diseaseslowed growth in children
priapism (an erection that won’t go away)circulation problems, especially in your fingers and toes
trouble urinatingblurry vision
liver damagehigh blood pressure
allergic reaction, such as swelling, hives, skin rashfaster heart rate
anxiety and irritabilitynew or worsening psychiatric problems
hostility and aggressivenessseizures, especially if you have a history of seizures
impulsive behaviorabuse and dependence
panic attackswithdrawal if you stop taking it suddenly
insomnia
mania
suicidal thoughts and actions, especially in children and teens
 

Read more: Effects of Adderall on the body »

Drug interactions

Both Strattera and Adderall can interact with other medications or supplements. Some substances can make your medication less effective. Interactions with other drugs can also threaten your health. Be sure to give your doctor a list of all the drugs and supplements you take, both prescription and over-the-counter.

The chart below lists examples of drugs that may interact with Strattera and Adderall.

StratteraAdderallBoth
decongestantsacidifying agentsmonoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
methylphenidatealkalizing agents, such as sodium bicarbonatemedications for high blood pressure
albuteroltricyclic antidepressants
antihistamines such as Benadryl
lithium
proton pump inhibitors
phenytoin
phenobarbital
 

Use with other medical conditions

Some health issues change the way Strattera or Adderall works in your body. It can be risky to take these drugs if you have certain problems or conditions. The chart below lists medical conditions you should discuss with your doctor before taking Strattera or Adderall.

StratteraAdderall Either
liver problemshardening of the arteriesglaucoma
high blood pressureheart disease
hyperthyroidismpregnancy
anxiety
history of substance abuse
 

Both of these drugs are considered pregnancy category C drugs. This means animal studies have shown side effects on the fetus, but there aren’t enough studies in humans to tell what would happen if a woman took them during pregnancy. Let your doctor know if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. They’ll discuss if these drugs are safe for you.

Cost, availability, and insurance

Most pharmacies keep both drugs in stock. At the time this article was written, Strattera cost more than Adderall. Adderall is also available as a generic drug, and Strattera is not. Generic drugs usually cost less than their brand-name counterparts. That means that overall, Adderall will probably be less expensive for you.

Price check
You can check the most recent prices of these drugs on GoodRx.com.

Nevertheless, your out-of-pocket cost will depend on your health insurance coverage.

Talk with your doctor

If you’re considering Strattera or Adderall to manage your ADHD, talk with your doctor. In general, both drugs work well. However, they work in different ways. Your doctor will recommend the one that’s best for you based on your health, other drugs you take, and other factors. Keep in mind that if one drug does not work well to treat your ADHD, there are other options, which you can learn about in Healthline’s ADHD medication list.

Keep reading: How to tell if your ADHD medication is working »

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