Atomoxetine for ADHD (Strattera)

Atomoxetine is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Common side-effects are lack of appetite and feeling sleepy.

During this treatment you will be invited for regular check-ups. It is important that you keep these appointments.

About atomoxetine

Type of medicine A non-stimulant medicine
Used for Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Also called Strattera®
Available as Capsules

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a fairly common condition that mainly affects a child's behaviour. Children with ADHD show persistent restlessness, impulsiveness and/or inattention. You will be given help to understand your child's emotions and behaviours, but where this is insufficient, medicines such as atomoxetine can be prescribed.

Atomoxetine increases the amount of a natural chemical called noradrenaline in the brain. This increases attention and decreases hyperactivity in children with ADHD. It will initially be prescribed by a specialist doctor. It is not suitable for children under the age of 6 years.

ADHD is usually diagnosed in children, but it can continue into adulthood. This leaflet is written as a source of information for parents or carers of children who have been prescribed atomoxetine, and also for young people and adults who are taking it themselves.

Before taking atomoxetine

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you (or a child in your care) start taking atomoxetine it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you (or your child) have high or low blood pressure.
  • If you (or your child) have a fast or unusual heartbeat.
  • If you (or your child) have any liver, heart, or blood vessel problems.
  • If you (or your child) have epilepsy, or have ever had a seizure.
  • If you (or your child) have an eye problem called glaucoma (high pressure in your eye).
  • If you (or your child) have an adrenal gland tumour called phaeochromocytoma.
  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you (or your child) are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you (or your child) have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.

How to take atomoxetine

  • Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. The leaflet will give you more information about atomoxetine and a full list of side-effects which may be experienced from taking it.
  • Make sure the capsules are taken exactly as your doctor tells you to. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how many should be taken and when to take them. It is usual to take one dose each day, in the morning. Sometimes, a doctor may recommend dividing the dose into two, taking the first part of the dose in the morning and the other part late afternoon or early evening. The dose will be on the label of the pack to remind you which is right for you.
  • Swallow the capsules whole with a drink of water. It is not important whether atomoxetine is taken before or after food.
  • When starting the treatment your doctor will prescribe a small dose and then gradually increase it. This allows your doctor to make sure that the dose helps your condition but avoids any unwanted symptoms.
  • There are several strengths of atomoxetine capsule. You will be given a strength that fits with your doctor's recommendations. Each time you collect a fresh supply, check to make sure that the capsules are the strength that you are expecting.
  • If you forget a dose, it should be taken as soon as you remember. If you do not remember until the following day, skip the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.

Getting the most from this treatment

  • Keep the regular appointments with your doctor. Your doctor will want to check to ensure that the treatment is helping. Your doctor will also monitor things like weight and height, and do some blood tests.
  • There are treatment programmes that will be recommended for you and your child. These will provide you with strategies to improve behaviour and reduce any long-term impact.
  • From time to time your doctor will assess the treatment to make sure it is still required. This may involve stopping atomoxetine for a short while.
  • There is a small amount of evidence to show that a change in diet may help some people with ADHD. If you think that diet may be a factor for you, discuss this with your doctor to see if speaking with a dietician might be of benefit.
  • Before buying any medicines, check with your pharmacist which medicines are safe to take alongside atomoxetine.

Can atomoxetine cause problems?

Along with their useful effects, all medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These often improve over the first few days of taking a new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common atomoxetine side-effects What can I do if I (or my child) experience this?
Headache Ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller
Feeling sleepy, dizzy, or tired If this happens, do not use tools or machines (or drive)
Feeling or being sick, abdominal pain, indigestion Stick to simple meals - avoid rich or spicy foods
Constipation Eat a well-balanced diet and drink several glasses of water each day
Lack of appetite, loss of weight, changes to heart rate and pressure (your doctor will check for this), rash, mood swings, problems sleeping, dry mouth If troublesome, speak with your doctor

In a very few people, atomoxetine has caused more serious unwanted effects. If you notice any of the following, you must let your doctor know straightaway:

  • Abdominal pain with sickness, dark-coloured urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes), and feeling generally unwell.
  • Suicidal or self-harming thoughts, feeling depressed, irritated or agitated.

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

How to store atomoxetine

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.