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J Clin Psychiatry. 2006;67 Suppl 8:32-8.

Mechanism of action of agents used in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

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  • 1Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Several medications have been demonstrated effective in treating individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There appears to be some commonality in the physiologic mechanisms of action of these agents relevant to the treatment of ADHD. Either direct or indirect attenuation of dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmission appears related to both the stimulant and nonstimulant medications efficacious in ADHD. However, important differences exist both between and within the specific classes of agents. Elucidating the various mechanisms of action of ADHD medications may lead to better choices in matching potential response to the characteristics (e.g., genotype) of individuals.

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