Conditions the medication is used for: ADD/ ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADD/ ADHD

Other names for the medication: Strattera®

What is this medication used for?

Atomoxetine (also known as Strattera®) is mainly used to help treat the symptoms of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). It is available as capsules and a liquid (4mg in 1ml). ADHD can cause you to be easily distracted, not finishing things, getting into trouble, having driving accidents and having relationship problems.

What is the usual dose for this medication?

The usual dose of atomoxetine in adults is around 80mg a day, but may be higher in some people.

How and when should I take the medication?

How to take

Swallow the capsules with at least half a glass of water whilst sitting or standing. This is to make sure that they reach the stomach and do not stick in your throat. For the liquid please read the leaflet that comes with the bottle on how to use the oral syringe.

When to take

Take your atomoxetine as directed on the medicine label. Try to take it at regular times each day. Taking it at mealtimes may make it easier for you to remember as it is best taken with food. If the label says to only take it once a day this is usually best in the morning. If the label says twice a day then take it in the morning and then late afternoon or early evening.

What are the alternatives to this medication?

There are many other medicines (e.g. methylphenidate, lisdexamfetamine), talking therapies and treatments for ADHD. See our “Handy chart” to help you compare the medicines, how they work and their side effects.

How long does the medication take to work?

It normally takes about 1-4 weeks to start to work for ADHD and 3 months to work fully.

How long will I need to keep taking this medication for?

You will usually need to keep taking atomoxetine for several years. You should talk to your doctor about this every year or so. Please see our “Handy charts” for more help and advice.

Can I just stop taking this medication?

It is unwise to stop taking it suddenly, even if you feel fine. Your ADHD symptoms can return if treatment is stopped too early. This may occur some weeks or even months after atomoxetine has been stopped. When the time comes, you should withdraw atomoxetine by a gradual reduction in the dose over several weeks. You should discuss this fully with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

What should I do if I forget to take a dose or overdose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember unless it is within about 4-6 hours of your next dose. If you remember after this just take the next dose as normal. Do not try to catch up by taking two doses at once as you may get more side-effects. If you have problems remembering your doses (as very many people do) ask your pharmacist, doctor or nurse about this. There are some special packs that can be used to help you.

Can I drink alcohol while on this medication?

You should have no problems with an occasional alcoholic drink.

Will this medication affect my other medications Including the Contraceptive pill?

Atomoxetine has a few interactions with other medicines:  

  • Atomoxetine should not be used with MAOIs (a type of antidepressant)
  • Other antidepressants such as imipramine, venlafaxine and mirtazapine should be used with care   
  • Decongestants that can be bought over the counter such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine (often found in cold remedies) should not be taken without consulting your pharmacist or doctor
  • Atomoxetine may interact with salbutamol tablets (for asthma), but not usually with salbutamol inhalers   
  • Atomoxetine can increase blood pressure, so other medicines that increase blood pressure should be taken with care.
  • You should have no problems with "The Contraceptive Pill" and atomoxetine.

Not all of these interactions happen in everyone. Some of these medicines can still be used together but you will need to follow your doctor's instructions carefully. There are many other possible drug interactions.

What sort of side-effects might I get from taking this medication?

Side effect

What happens

What to do about it

VERY COMMON (more than about 1 in 10 people might get these)

Anorexia

Weight loss, not feeling hungry.

If this is a problem, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Nausea and vomiting

Feeling sick and being sick. Abdominal pain

If it is bad, contact your doctor. It may be possible to adjust your dose. Taking it after food may help. It should wear off after a few weeks.

Increased alertness

Early morning waking. Irritability and mood swings

Discuss this with your doctor. You may be able to change the time of your dose or doses.

Insomnia

Not being able to fall asleep at night

Discuss this with your doctor. You may be able to change the time of your dose or doses.

Dizziness

Feeling light-headed and faint

Do not stand up too quickly. Try and lie down when you feel it coming on. Do not drive.

COMMON (fewer than about 1 in 10 people might get these)

Constipation

When you want to poop but can't (the opposite of diarrhoea). You can't pass a motion.

Make sure you eat enough fibre or bran or fruit. Make sure you are drinking enough fluid. Make sure you keep active and get some exercise e.g. walking. If this does not help, ask your doctor or pharmacist for a mild laxative.

Skin rashes

Red rashes on the skin, dermatitis, pruritis (itching)

You should stop atomoxetine and call your doctor or hospital immediately if you get swelling or hives (small raised, itchy patches of skin). Atomoxetine can cause a serious allergic reaction in rare cases.

 

Fatigue

You feel tired all the time. This may happen early on in treatment and should go away.

If you feel like this for more than a week after starting atomoxetine, tell your doctor. It may be possible to adjust your dose slightly.

UNCOMMON (fewer than about 1 in 100 people might get these)

Sexual dysfunction

Finding it hard to have an orgasm. No desire for sex.

Discuss with your doctor.

Aggression

Being aggressive, depressed, hostile and perhaps suicidal thinking.

If this occurs, discuss with your doctor as soon as possible.

Jaundice and hepatic damage

Pain just under the ribs, looking a bit yellow, feeling sick

Stop taking atomoxetine and contact your doctor straight away, don’t delay.

 

Do not be worried by this list of side effects. Some people get no side effects at all and others may get some effects that are not listed in this table. If you think you might have a side effect to your medicine, you should ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

 

Will I need to have blood tests?

You should not need a blood test while you are taking atomoxetine. You should have your blood pressure and pulse checked before you start atomoxetine. They should also be checked every six months and after every dose change

Can I drive or cycle while on this medication?

You may feel a bit light-headed at first when taking atomoxetine. Until this wears off, or you know how atomoxetine affects you, do not drive or operate machinery. Atomoxetine can help you concentrate and so you may be less likely to have an accident if you take your atomoxetine regularly.

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