Nortriptyline in the treatment of ADHD: a chart review of 58 cases

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1993 Mar;32(2):343-9. doi: 10.1097/00004583-199303000-00015.


Objective: The potential benefit of the tricyclic antidepressant medication, nortriptyline (NT), in the treatment of children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was evaluated.

Method: A systematic search was conducted from a computerized data base of all clinic patients in an outpatient pediatric psychopharmacology unit treated with NT for ADHD. The records of the 58 subjects identified (37 children and 21 adolescents) were reviewed for overall response, dose, serum levels, and adverse effects.

Results: Ninety-seven percent of the identified subjects had failed to respond to an average of four previous medication trials, 84% had at least one comorbid diagnosis with ADHD, and 47% were receiving at least one concurrent medication. NT doses ranged from 0.4 to 4.5 mg/kg (X +/- SD = 2.0 +/- 1.0 mg/kg) and subjects received NT from 0.4 to 57.9 months (11.9 +/- 14.0 months). Overall, 76% of subjects were considered to have a moderate to marked improvement by an independent rater, which was corroborated by their clinicians. There was no association between response and age, rate of comorbidity, number of previous medication trials, or concurrent pharmacotherapy (all p NS). Although there were no overall differences in serum NT levels between responders and nonresponders, significantly more patients within the suggested therapeutic range in adults of 50 to 150 ng/ml were classified as "markedly improved" than those outside this range (68% versus 35%, p < 0.03). Mild adverse effects were reported in 20 subjects (34%).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that NT may be an effective well-tolerated agent for ADHD children and adolescents. Additional controlled investigations utilizing NT for ADHD should be undertaken.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / blood
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nortriptyline / adverse effects
  • Nortriptyline / pharmacokinetics
  • Nortriptyline / therapeutic use*
  • Personality Assessment
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Nortriptyline