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Strattera Abuse, Addiction And Treatment Options

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

April 22, 2019

Strattera is a medication prescribed for individuals with ADD and ADHD. Individuals who take this drug, however, find that they build up a tolerance to it and need to take more and more to feel the effects. Continuously upping a dose without doctor approval can leave individuals finding themselves dependent on and addicted to Strattera.

Strattera is a non-stimulant medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Abusing this medication can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

What Is Strattera?

Strattera is used to treat ADHD in children and adults. This particular medication is different from other ADHD medications, because it works on different areas in the brain.

Other ADHD medications, like Ritalin and Adderall, stimulate activity in the central nervous system to alleviate symptoms. Strattera is a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), and effects those neurotransmitters in the brain that communicate using norepinephrine.

Low levels of norepinephrine have been found in individuals with ADHD. Increased levels of norepinephrine show an increase in alertness and reaction time. Strattera increases levels of norepinephrine by decreasing the amount that is pulled back into the neuron that made it.

Preventing the reuptake of norepinephrine makes more of the chemical available for absorption. Having more norepinephrine in the brain helps a person with ADHD focus, concentrate, and reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity.

While not considered as addictive as other ADHD medications, atomoxetine (generic name for Strattera) can be abused and addiction can occur. Strattera should be taken exactly as prescribed, and it is recommended that Strattera is taken at the same time every day.

Strattera Abuse

Strattera is intended for the long-term treatment of ADHD. Over a period of time, it is not unusual for a person to feel as though their regular dose of Strattera is not working as well as it used to. This is referred to as developing a tolerance and doctors come to expect this.

Communication with the prescribing doctor is important, as they can change the dose and monitor the person to make sure they are not taking too much Strattera. Changing the dose of Strattera without a doctor, or taking Strattera in any way that is not prescribed is considered Strattera abuse.

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Strattera Abuse Signs

When a person is abusing Strattera, they increase the risk of developing unwanted side effects, including:

  • increased heart rate
  • dry mouth
  • insomnia
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • rash
  • personality changes
  • hallucination
  • low sex drive
  • weight loss
  • increased anger or aggression
  • difficulty urinating
  • numbness

Individuals who abuse Strattera without a prescription may face additional health problems, due to interactions with other drugs or preexisting conditions. People taking Strattera without medical supervision could experience fatal side effects, especially those with heart, liver, or mental health disorders.

Strattera Addiction

A person abusing Strattera is likely to develop dependence on the drug. They may feel as though they cannot function normally without Strattera. This can lead to a psychological addiction to Strattera, especially if the person is displaying the following:

  • unable to maintain responsibilities at work, with family or friends
  • avoiding previously enjoyed hobbies, social events, or activities
  • spending large amounts of time and money on Strattera
  • seeking multiple doctors to obtain several prescriptions for Strattera
  • having withdrawal without Strattera (dependence)
  • asking for or stealing Strattera from others
  • needing to take more Strattera to feel the same effects (tolerance)

Strattera Withdrawal

Symptoms of withdrawal may emerge once a person decides to stop taking Strattera. The intensity of the withdrawal symptoms largely depends on how long the person has been taking Strattera and how high of a dose the person is taking. The longer and higher the dose, the more intense the symptoms of withdrawal usually are.

A person going through Strattera withdrawal may experience panic attacks, anxiety, hostility, aggression, irritability, mania, and impulsiveness. If the person was prescribed Strattera to treat ADHD, they may also begin experiencing ADHD symptoms once they stop taking Strattera.

While the withdrawal symptoms from Strattera are typically not fatal, they can be very uncomfortable. A person may benefit from seeking a substance abuse treatment facility that offers medically-supervised detoxification. These detox programs have options to ease Strattera withdrawal symptoms, using medications and other treatment options

Strattera Addiction Treatment Options

During detox, medical professionals will taper down the dose of Strattera over time, in an attempt to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Assessments will be used to determine alternative treatment options for ADHD or other diagnoses, if applicable.

Treatment plans are developed during the early stages of substance abuse rehabilitation, and usually recommend for residents to continue on into an inpatient substance abuse treatment program.

Once a person has been completely off Strattera, they can begin individual therapy, group counseling, and workshops that can help them understand the nature of their addiction, and how to overcome it.

Inpatient substance abuse treatment options are beneficial because they provide intensive treatment without all the distractions of the outside world. Removing daily stressors while teaching new coping strategies, learning about addiction, and developing a plan for the future can help a person stay focused on the end goal; sobriety.

Our team of professionals is available to help explore treatment options for you or your loved one who may be struggling with Strattera addiction. Strattera addiction is treatable, and we are here to help. Reach out to us today.

Food and Drug Administration - Strattera (atomoxetine) Label

Psychopharmacology - A review of the abuse potential assessment of atomoxetine: a nonstimulant medication for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Journal of Child and Family Studies - The Use of Stimulant Medication and Behavioral Interventions for the Treatment of ADHD

Drugs Real World Outcomes - Diagnoses of Cardiovascular Disease or Substance Addiction/Abuse in US Adults Treated for ADHD with Stimulants or Atomoxetine: Is Use Consistent with Product Labeling?

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