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Guanfacine: Is This ADHD Medicine Right for You? Uses & Side Effects

Guanfacine is an extended-release tablet. Sometimes, doctors prescribe it alone while other times a physician pairs it with another ADHD medication. If you’re searching for an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication, you may want to consider trying guanfacine.

This medication helps to calm children and adolescents, even though it’s also a medication to reduce high blood pressure in adults. This particular drug is a generic for Intuniv or Tenex. We classify it as a central2A-adrenergic,

What to Know About Guanfacine

Guanfacine is a treatment that increases a child’s attention span. Additionally, it reduces restlessness in people who are overactive, are easily distracted, impulsive, or can’t concentrate for long periods of time.

Doctors prescribe it to help with a children’s education, psychological well-being, and social life. It may even help with your child’s temper and your kid’s desire to argue with adults.

Unlike other ADHD medications, this drug isn’t a stimulant, meaning it doesn’t have the same health concerns as some of the other ADHD medications available.

History of Guanfacine in the United States

When you’re making the decision to medicate your child for ADHD, you may question the safety and effectiveness of the medications Do this as a result of some options just entering the market within the past few years.

However, guanfacine has a long history. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of this drug back in 1986 as a medication for high blood pressure.

The FDA approved the use of guanfacine for ADHD in 2010. At this point, the FDA declared the medication as safe and effective for individuals between the ages of six and 17 years of age.

The drug gained approval for use in Europe as well.

What Dosage of Guanfacine Do You Take

Guanfacine tablets scattered on the table
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Image: CC by A-SA 3.0, Daniel Case, via Wikipedia Commons

The dosage of guanfacine for your blood pressure and a child or adolescent ADHD differ. For instance, an adult using it for high blood pressure takes one milligram of guanfacine once per day.

But this dosage may increase to three milligrams per day. On the other hand, a child six years or older starts taking one milligram once per day at the same time each day.

The physician might gradually increase this amount up to four milligrams per day if needed. Someone can take it in the morning or at night,

but you may want to opt to give it to your child before bed to prevent daytime sleepiness.

Guanfacine Versus Stimulant ADHD Treatments

Stimulants like Adderall are usually the go-to medications doctors prescribe to children with ADHD. Often, parents aren’t comfortable with their children taking a stimulant.

So they avoid getting their children the help they need because of the safety of stimulants. However, guanfacine isn’t a stimulant.

The Stimulant

Stimulants work quicker to treat symptoms of ADHD than guanfacine. However, a stimulant is habit-forming, so your child must wean off of them gradually. Not to mention, with stimulants, your child develops a tolerance.

So, your child may need other medications in addition to the stimulant. On the other hand, guanfacine isn’t habit-forming, so your child won’t develop a tolerance for them.

Additionally, your child won’t have a serious reaction if he or she should ever have to stop taking guanfacine.

The Reaction

If your child has a substance abuse problem or has a family history of substance abuse, stimulants are more likely to cause the issue.

This includes addiction while guanfacine is safe to take. This happens even if your child has a history or family history of substance abuse issues.

In general, stimulants have more side effects than non-stimulant ADHD medications, meaning guanfacine is less likely to cause side effects.

Precautions to Consider When Taking Guanfacine

You should talk to your doctor before you decide on your child taking a regimen of the drug. He or she discusses your options and determines if this drug is for your kid.

For example, your child has to have his or her blood pressure and heart rate measured before beginning this drug. It has the potential to drop your child’s blood pressure.

The Doctor's Say

At every doctor’s appointment, a nurse evaluates your child’s vitals. Additionally, the physician monitors your child’s progress to ensure the medication is working.

If your child isn’t experiencing a significant difference, your physician may increase your child’s dose or switch medications. Keep in mind, you can’t just stop your child’s dosage of the drug.

You must wait until you consult with a physician because he or she might want your child to taper off of the drug slowly. This prevents any potential complications from switching from one medication to nothing or another medication.

Medical professional

Always make sure you tell your child’s dentist and any medical professional if your child takes guanfacine. The medication can interact with other drugs.

Thus, always make sure your child’s pediatrician knows if he or she is taking any other medications. Such as an antihistamine for allergies. Never feed your child a diet high in fat content before giving him or her guanfacine.

A meal that’s high in fat can enhance the release of the medication. This also increases your child’s risk of side effects.

What Side Effects Does Guanfacine Cause

Sick woman experiencing guanfacine side effects
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Image: Designed by Freepik

Like all medications, guanfacine does cause side effects. For instance, it’s most common for your child to experience one of the following:

  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Unusual weakness
  • Sweating

Secondary side effects:

Although they’re not as common, your child may experience one or more of the following side effects:

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Slow, fast, or an irregular heartbeat
  • Increased need to urinate
  • Noisy breathing
  • Depression
  • Tightness in your chest

Other possible side effects of guanfacine:

  • Constipation
  • A headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain

Less common side effects:

  • Acid or sour stomach
  • Belching
  • Decreased sexual ability
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dry, itchy eyes
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Burning eyes
  • Lack or loss of strength
  • Paleness in the skin
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Difficulty sleeping

Possible Drug Interactions With Guanfacine

Man Who Fainted on the Road under the Sun with Pale Skin due to Guanfacine Side Effects
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Image: CC by 2.0, Andrij Bulba, via Flickr

Guanfacine does have the potential to interact with some medications. Your child’s physician may need to adjust dosages or find other alternatives if prescribed by this.

Central Nervous System Depressants

  • It’s possible for sedation to occur if someone takes guanfacine with another central nervous system depressant (CNS) drug such as a benzodiazepine tranquilizer like lorazepam.
  • Because both of the medications work on the nervous system, it causes higher concentrations of the drugs.
  • Ultimately, this results in hypotension and possible sedation.
  • A physician may need to alter dosages of CNS agents with guanfacine.

Other ADHD Medication

  • Because other ADHD medications like Concerta work on the central nervous system and so does guanfacine.
  • It’s possible for your child to experience a negative medication reaction.
  • Typically, if your child is already on a drug for ADHD, the physician slowly decreases that drug and then starts your child on guanfacine to see if it’s more effective.
  • Your child doesn’t receive adequate relief of ADHD symptoms from one medication alone.
  • The physician may recommend taking two of these medications at one time.

Blood Pressure Medications

  • Even if your child is taking guanfacine to help manage his or her ADHD, the medication does have the potential to alter your child’s blood pressure.
  • Therefore, if your child has hypertension and is receiving treatment for it, your child may no longer need his or her other blood pressure medication.
  • Taking this particular medication along with a drug that lowers blood pressure such as lisinopril can cause an unsafe drop in your child’s blood pressure.


  • Diphenhydramine is the generic form of Benadryl and various other allergy and motion sickness medications.
  • Your child shouldn’t take anything with diphenhydramine in it because it could alter your child’s blood pressure negatively.

Diseases That Impact Its Use

  • A child with heart problems has a disease that causes an irregular heart rhythm. So, this drug isn’t always the safest.
  • Your child’s doctor may not prescribe guanfacine. If your child has any type of liver or kidney issues either.

Cost of Your Child Taking Guanfacine

Crying Sad Child Alongside the Street Suffering due to Guanfacine Side Effects
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Image: CC 0 by Public Domain, markzfilter, via Pixabay

Typically, as long as a physician determines a need for a child to take an ADHD medication, insurance covers at least part of the cost.

If would have to pay out-of-pocket expenses or would need to pay for this medication, you can expect a high cost for one-hundred one-milligram tablets of guanfacine.

These tablets cost a couple bucks per tablet. This is a decent price since the average price of ADHD medications like Adderall usually costs a lot per month.

Other medications

Some medications such as Daytrana and Ritalin are slightly less than guanfacine. The cheaper drugs are often less effective and have more side effects.

When you’re discussing ADHD medications with your child’s physician, always consider its safety and effectiveness. It does have a history of working well for many patients.

You should also take note of guanfacine’s non-addictive quality. Basically, as long as your kid doesn’t have any serious health concerns, he or she should respond well to this medication.


Featured Image: People image created by Jcomp -

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