Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice, and is just the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to prescription medication.
Strattera is a medication that's FDA-approved to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The generic form of the drug is called atomoxetine, and we'll use these terms interchangeably throughout this article as they refer to the same active drug ingredient.
But is Strattera actually proven in clinical trials to improve ADHD symptoms? Is it more or less effective than Adderall? Does it cause any concerning side effects? And how do real users rate it and describe its effects?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we review medical research on Strattera to determine if it's effective, compare it to Adderall, explain whether the generic version is as effective and share real, unsponsored user reviews of Strattera.
Does Strattera Reduce ADHD Symptoms?
Strattera has been studied in hundreds of clinical trials evaluating its efficacy for treating ADHD.
A medical review published in the Pediatric Drugs journal analyzed data from many clinical trials comparing Strattera to other ADHD medications.
The researchers found that Strattera was more effective than all current ADHD medications in both children and adolescents. Patients taking Strattera also reported significantly higher scores for health-related quality of life than patients taking a placebo drug.
A clinical trial from 2004 tested Strattera on adults with ADHD, and documented that the drug reduced ADHD symptom scores by over 28%.
An extensive meta-study was published in 2013 to evaluate the results from many clinical trials on the efficacy of Strattera for ADHD. Data from over 3,000 patients who participated in clinical trials was included.
The study authors concluded that Strattera is effective, but “has a poor benefit-risk balance for the treatment of adults with ADHD,” because the benefits were mild and the side effects were worse than placebo treatment.
We will conclude from the available research that Strattera is effective for reducing ADHD symptoms in both children and adults.
Strattera Side Effects
Strattera's FDA label has a "black box" warning, shown above, indicating that Strattera can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents.
A medical review examined the side effects of Strattera and found that the most common side effects were more mild, including headache, abdominal pain and nausea.
The following cardiovascular side effects were also reported as “common side effects” of the drug: increase in heart rate, sinus tachycardia, increase in systolic blood pressure, increase in diastolic blood pressure, heart palpitations.
Around 4% of children and adolescents taking the medication had an increase in heart rate of greater than 25 beats, which is a significant increase.
Given the increased risk of severe side effects for children and adolescents, it may be beneficial for their guardians to speak with their doctor about alternative medications that do not confer these risks.
One of the most popular YouTube videos on Strattera side effects is titled "Strattera Almost Killed Me" and shares a patient's experience of severe side effects from the medication:
Strattera Vs. Adderall
Adderall is probably the most well-known ADHD medication, so patients are often curious about whether Strattera or Adderall is more effective.
There have been comparative studies on the two drugs for the treatment of ADHD.
A clinical trial published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy journal compared the efficacy of Strattera and Adderall for ADHD. The researchers found that the drugs had similar efficacy, but that the extended release (XR) formulation of Adderall was more effective for ADHD.
A separate trial found that in children and adolescents who responded poorly to Adderall, switching to Strattera led to improved mental health outcomes and reduction of ADHD symptoms.
Another medical trial compared the use of Adderall XR and Strattera in children, and found that Adderall XR was more effective.
Based on the available medical research, it appears that Adderall XR (but not regular Adderall) may be more effective for ADHD in both children and adults than Strattera. That being said, as documented by several of the above-linked trials, Adderall is a stimulant with the potential for abuse, so it's important that patients have a discussion with their doctor about the potential risks versus benefits of the two drugs.
Real, Unsponsored User Review of Strattera
One of the most popular YouTube reviews of Strattera is published by a creator named Stuart Anderson. The video is only five minutes long, and he explains the pros and cons of Strattera based on his experience. The video has over 140,000 views at the time of updating this article:
Should I Take Strattera Generic?
The generic form of Strattera is called atomoxetine. Both of these drugs have the exact same active chemical compound.
An extensive meta-study published in the PLOS Medicine journal analyzed data from over 1 million patients, and found that generic drugs were just as safe and effective as their brand-name counterparts on average. This suggests that generic atomoxetine should be just as effective as Strattera, but may be cheaper.
At the time of updating this article, the retail price for Strattera is $534.64 according to SingleCare, while atomoxetine can be purchased at the same dose for $9 on Cost Plus Drugs (Mark Cuban's venture).
Strattera comes in a wide variety of doses, which is unsurprising given that it’s prescribed to both children and adults. Children need relatively lower doses of medications due to lower body weight.
The medication is sold at the following doses: 10 milligrams (mg), 18 mg, 25 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg, 80 mg, 100 mg.
StatPearls, which is a free medical database, reports that dosing for adults is typically initiated at 40 mg per day.
Children are reported to typically start at a dose of 0.5 mg per kilogram (kg) body weight daily. For a 70 pound child this would equate to a 15.87 mg dose. Because a dose isn’t available at that exact number, the doctor would likely start at the lower dose (10 mg) to be safe.
Can an OTC Supplement Treat ADHD?
Patients are often curious about whether there are research-backed over-the-counter (OTC) treatments for ADHD.
Ginkgo biloba extract is an herbal supplement with proven nootropic function. This means it can increase cognition and concentration short-term.
A clinical trial published in 2014 found that ginkgo biloba extract was effective for children diagnosed with ADHD. Supplementation with ginkgo biloba extract improved ADHD core symptoms and quality of life.
A separate clinical trial published in the Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice journal found that ginkgo biloba extract may be an effective adjunctive therapy to standard pharmaceutical ADHD treatment. An adjunctive therapy means a therapy used in combination with standard treatment.
Inattention scores (a common symptom of ADHD) were significantly decreased with ginkgo biloba extract complementary therapy. Total ADHD symptom score was also significantly decreased.
Illuminate Labs sells a ginkgo biloba extract supplement which is third-party tested to ensure label accuracy, potency and purity, and which contains no questionable additive ingredients.
We are not suggesting that ginkgo biloba extract is effective as a standalone ADHD treatment, or that it’s as effective as Strattera. We’re simply sharing some promising early research on the compound. Patients may benefit from speaking with their doctor about the potential for ginkgo biloba extract to be a supportive ADHD treatment.
Strattera Patient Reviews
Strattera has been reviewed over 800 times on Drugs.com, which is a website that allows patients to publish personal reviews and ratings of prescription drugs they're taking.
The average user rating of Strattera for ADHD is only 5.2 out of 10, which is relatively low.
The top positive review comes from a user named "Juicey J" who gives Strattera a 9/10 rating and claims that after two weeks of side effects the drug improved their quality of life:
"The side effects only lasted around 2 weeks...then came the good part. All these side effects subsided and I noticed how calm I was. Usually I'm on edge. I also noticed I'm more attentive to the things I need to take care of at home and work. And I enjoy sex more than I did before, and I'm sure this med has helped me become closer with my fiance again."
The top negative review is written by an anonymous user who claims the drug caused discomforting side effects:
"Never been treated for ADHD before now. I have terrible anxiety among other things. Today is day three on Strattera. I feel drunk when I take it. I don't like alcohol normally. But this feels like I drank too much. The first few hours are difficult. My chest feels heavy and my body is tingling. I have constant goosebumps."
How Does Strattera Work?
Strattera is in a drug class called norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. These drugs delay the natural processing of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine, which leads to artificially elevated circulating levels of it in the brain.
This is a similar mechanism of action to SSRI drugs, but those drugs cause an increase in the circulating levels of a different neurotransmitter called serotonin.
Norepinephrine is proven in medical studies to optimize central nervous system (CNS) function, improve brain plasticity and memory consolidation. By artificially increasing its levels, Strattera enhances cognitive functioning in a manner that’s especially beneficial to ADHD patients.
Should I Take Strattera At Night?
Patients are often curious about the optimal drug timing for Strattera, given that many ADHD drugs are stimulants that can disrupt sleep.
While Strattera is not a stimulant, we would not recommend taking the drug at night unless otherwise prescribed by a doctor, because the drug's FDA label recommends taking Strattera either as a single dose in the morning or as two daily divided doses in the morning and afternoon.
A clinical trial published in the Sleep journal found that Strattera decreased time-to-sleep for children by over 12 minutes compared with placebo pills.