How Effective Is Guanfacine for ADHD?

Ken Black

While there have been very few tests done in regard to using treating attention deficit and hyperactvity disorder with guanfacine, the few that have been done have shown promise. Of the tests done researching the effectiveness of guanfacine for ADHD, some results have shown that there has been at least some improvement with clinically-significant group. While it may not work for everyone, it apparently does work for some, even those resistant to other forms of treatment. Side effects of guanfacine include dizziness, drowsiness, constipation, and dry mouth.

The effects of guanfacine include drowsiness.
The effects of guanfacine include drowsiness.

Of the studies that have been done, once-daily treatment with guanfacine for ADHD has been shown to help a significant number of individuals, but not all individuals. Most of the studies have focused the research on young adults and children. Some studies conducted looked at the strength of individual doses. Other studies have just taken a preset dose, and looked at whether observers noted any improvements in behavior. Some studies also compared extended release treatments versus immediate release methods.

Unteated vision problems in children can elicit many of the same signs commonly attributed to ADHD.
Unteated vision problems in children can elicit many of the same signs commonly attributed to ADHD.

In one study, the manufacturer Shire reported the effectiveness of guanfacine doses ranging from 2 milligrams to 4 milligrams for extended release. Nearly 350 children, ages 6 to 12 years, were given one of the doses of the medication, or a placebo, with the results measured. Results showed an improvement of 56 percent for those on 2 milligrams, improvement of 50 percent for 3 milligrams and an improvement of 55.6 percent for 4 milligrams. Lowered blood pressure was one of the side effects, but all participants handled the medication well.

Although some of the studies done on immediate release guanfacine for ADHD have had mixed results, all have noted some improvement for some participants. In a 2006 study, 25 individuals, ages 5 to 14 years old, were given an eight-week trial. Of those participants 12 were judged as being much improved or very much improved. That study indicated that guanfacine for ADHD was effective for many individuals.

While guanfacine for ADHD may not have as impressive as results as some other medications, the studies done have largely been done with participants that had shown resistance to other medications. Therefore, these individuals tended to have especially difficult cases to treat. Therefore, the overall success rate of the medication was considered fairly good, given the cases studied.

There are a number of side effects that caregivers should watch for when administering guanfacine. Some of the more common symptoms include subjects being dizzy, drowsy, constipated, or having a dry mouth. Generally, the side effects are minor. Some may also have allergic reactions to guanfacine such as rashes, hives, itching, breathing difficulties, or even tightness in the chest. Such symptoms should be reported to a medical professional.

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