Generic Medications Used to Treat ADHD

Prescription pills spill out of medication bottle on a counter.

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Most commonly, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is diagnosed in children, and it often persists through adolescence and later adulthood. The medications that are most commonly prescribed to treat ADHD are stimulants, though non-stimulants are available as well. While many are brand-name drugs, lower-cost generic alternatives may be more affordable—if they're not already required by your insurance provider.

Common Medications

Children with ADHD fall into three categories:

  • Primarily hyperactive-impulsive
  • Primarily inattentive
  • A combination of the two

Although some people with ADHD "outgrow" the disease, it's estimated that as many as 80% of people carry the condition through adulthood. Adults with ADHD are by and large not hyperactive and instead inattentive.

The majority of ADHD medications can be purchased as generic versions, which are the names in parentheses in the lists below.

Medications are a big part of treatment for both adults and children. The stimulants your doctor may prescribe include:

  • Adderall and Adderall XR (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine)
  • Concerta (methylphenidate)
  • Daytrana (methylphenidate)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
  • Dyanavel XR (amphetamine)
  • Focalin and Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate)
  • Metadate CD (methylphenidate)
  • Methylin and Methylin ER (methylphenidate)
  • Ritalin and Ritalin LA (methylphenidate)
  • Quillivant XR (methylphenidate)
  • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)

The following non-stimulant medications may also be prescribed for ADHD treatment when an individual does not respond well to stimulants:

  • Intuniv (guanfacine)
  • Kapvay (clonidine)
  • Strattera (atomoxetine)
  • Qelbree (viloxazine)

Of note, the XR, ER, and LA designations indicate extended-release preparations.

Cost Differences

Brand-name drugs are typically expensive. Generic medications are often low-cost alternatives that, for most people, work just as well as brand-name drugs. In fact, according to the FDA, the cost of generic medications is typically around 85% less than brand-name drugs when there are multiple generics for the same drug on the market.  

Keep in mind that medication costs can vary over time and be dependent on your pharmacy and insurance coverage. And some insurance companies only authorize brand-name drugs or vice versa.

While this doesn't reflect the potential savings for every generic medication, particularly when there are fewer generic competitors, in many instances, switching to generic medications can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on ADHD treatment each year.

Compared with generic versions of shorter-acting drugs, it can cost several times more to purchase extended-release preparations. Although it may be more convenient to take extended-release versions because fewer doses are needed, you may be able to save lots of money by switching to shorter-acting alternatives.


Some people are concerned about the effectiveness of generic medications versus brand-name options. Each generic medication goes through the same level of scrutiny and approval process by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA states, "A generic medicine works in the same way and provides the same clinical benefit as its brand-name version." In order to be approved for use, it has to have the same safety, strength, quality, performance, and intended use.

Notably, the FDA withdrew approval of two generic versions of Concerta (methylphenidate hydrochloride) extended-release (ER) capsules, as they failed to demonstrate the same therapeutic effect as the brand-name drug.

Changing Medications

Just as switching from any medication to another, some people will not have the same reaction to a generic drug as they would to the brand-name equivalent (and vice versa). Whenever you and your doctor decide to change to a different medication, it's important that you monitor yourself or your child for any changes.

When you change a medication, bring up anything you notice—including side effects—to your doctor so they can make adjustments as needed. This may include a dosage change or trying a different medication until you find the right one for you. ADHD is a very individual condition and requires individualized treatments.

Payment Support

If you're having trouble paying for ADHD medications, inform the prescribing physician and ask about generic alternatives. The physician can offer you options and alternatives that may lower the cost of ADHD medications.

For example, many large pharmacy retailers offer a value formulary, a list of medications that can be prescribed for less cost. Moreover, patient assistance programs are also available in many communities and can subsidize the cost of treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Treating ADHD with medications often requires patience and open conversations with your doctor. If you have concerns over the cost of medications, bring these up during your appointments, along with any questions you have about side effects. By working together, you can find a treatment that will help.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Mental Health. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

  2. Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD changes in adulthood.

  3. Shier AC, Reichenbacher T, Ghuman HS, Ghuman JK. Pharmacological treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: clinical strategies. J Cent Nerv Syst Dis. 2013;5:1-17. doi:10.4137/JCNSD.S6691

  4. National Resource Center on ADHD. Medications used in the treatment of ADHD approved by the US FDA.

  5. Food and Drug Administration. Generic drug facts.

  6. Food and Drug Administration. Generic competition and drug prices: New evidence linking greater generic competition and lower generic drug prices.

  7. Food and Drug Administration. Methylphenidate hydrochloride extended release tablets (generic Concerta) made by Mallinckrodt and Kudco.

By Michael Bihari, MD
Michael Bihari, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician, health educator, and medical writer, and president emeritus of the Community Health Center of Cape Cod.