Some of the most commonly prescribed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs are Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine and Focalin, which are all stimulants. Some popular nonstimulant ADHD drugs are Intuniv and Strattera, according to Everyday Heath.
Stimulant drugs regulate ADHD symptoms such as hyperactivity and impulsiveness because they increase the levels of chemicals such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals help transmit signals in the brain. Common side effects with stimulant drugs include nervousness, dry mouth, decreased appetite and insomnia, says WebMD.
The nonstimulant drugs Strattera and Intuniv work in different ways. Strattera increases norepinephrine, while Intuniv was originally a blood pressure medication and works because it increases nerve activity. Both result in reduced distractibility and improved impulse control. Side effects include upset stomach, dizziness and fatigue. Nonstimulants have some advantages over stimulants, as they are not controlled substances and do not hold the same potential for addiction or abuse, says WebMD.
Psychiatrists take a thorough medical and mental health history before they decide which drug is best suited for a patient. For example, a stimulant may not be recommended for those with a history of high blood pressure, schizophrenia or anxiety. Likewise, Intuniv is not recommended for those with low blood pressure or who have kidney problems, advises WebMD.