What Is Strattera? Atomoxetine Addiction & Abuse

Last Updated: March 11, 2020

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

Strattera is a commonly prescribed medication for children, teens, and adults. Generically known as atomoxetine, many people who use it do not have a good understanding of what the drug is. Here is what all users need to know about Strattera medicine.

What Is Strattera?

Strattera is a prescription medication that has been sold in the United States since 2002. The Strattera drug class is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor or SNRI. ADHD treatment is most prevalent of Strattera uses. However, it is also used to treat depression, anxiety, and other behavioral health disorders.

Atomoxetine is the key ingredient in the drug. It is only approved for use in patients aged six and older. When someone is being prescribed an ADHD medication, they need to take time to compare it to other options; for example, Strattera vs. Adderall. Each medication has its benefits and drawbacks to consider. However, a prescribing physician can decide what medication is better. Patients should not switch drugs on their own.

generic drug Strattera

Strattera Generics

While Lilly has been manufacturing atomoxetine hydrochloride since 2002, most generics have only been approved by the FDA in recent years. The first generic formula was made available in 2010. Zydus Pharms USA Inc was the first generic manufacturer.

The next generics were approved on May 30, 2017. Apotex Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Aurobindo Pharma Limited, and Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Limited were all allowed to begin selling their generics for Strattera on that date.

Can Strattera Be Abused?

The abuse of prescription medications is widespread. However, not all prescription medications lend themselves to abuse so easily. As such, users should consider the Strattera abuse potential.

When compared to other ADHD medications, the likelihood of Strattera abuse occurring is fairly low. This is because it is not an amphetamine in the same way drugs like Adderall are. Instead, as an SNRI, it functions as antidepressants.

With that said, antidepressants can be abused. In general, doing this means taking a higher Strattera dosage than prescribed or taking it more frequently than the user should. However, it can also be abused by mixing it with other medications and street drugs. No one should be engaged in such practices.

Is Strattera Addictive?

At this time, Strattera addiction is not considered to be possible. This is because studies have shown it is difficult to abuse and not result in physical addiction. However, this does not mean that people will never feel compelled to use the drug. People can develop a mental dependence on the drug if they feel it brings them comfort. While the benefits of atomoxetine are critical to its use, they can also make patients fear life without it. As such, some might feel addicted even if they are not.

How Long Does Strattera Stay In One’s System?

Atomoxetine HCL half-life is roughly five hours. However, patients with a faster metabolism will see it eliminated sooner, and those with slower metabolisms will take longer to remove the drug from their system. As such, the Strattera half-life can vary between patients by several hours.

Does Strattera Show Up On Drug Tests?

A standard drug screening should not show the presence of atomoxetine hydrochloride in the system. However, that does not mean that it cannot produce a false positive. While this is rare, there is at least one confirmed case of atomoxetine triggering a false positive for amphetamines.

Generally speaking, only a Strattera drug test should reveal the presence of the drug. However, it would be rare for a test to look for the presence of atomoxetine as it is not a common drug of abuse. With that said, users should still be aware of the detection times for the medication. They are as follows:

  • Urine: three days
  • Hair: 90 days
  • Blood: three days

Atomoxetine Interactions

One of the riskiest parts of taking any medication is the potential for interactions.

Atomoxetine And Alcohol

When mixing Strattera and alcohol, it is possible for dangerous effects to result. Atomoxetine and alcohol come together to increase the effects of each substance, making it more likely that the user will become sick. Additionally, alcohol tends to weaken the Strattera’s effectiveness.

Atomoxetine And Marijuana

Atomoxetine is used in the treatment of marijuana dependence. It can also be combined with medical marijuana to treat ADHD. However, using Strattera and weed recreationally is risky. Much like alcohol, cannabis can increase side effects, while decreasing effectiveness. It also makes it more likely that the users will injure themselves.

Strattera interaction with Prozac, Zoloft, and other drugs

Atomoxetine And Zoloft

When a patient has both ADHD and depression or anxiety, it is possible they will be treated with atomoxetine hydrochloride and some other antidepressants. However, combining Strattera and Zoloft is not a good idea. When mixed with Zoloft, the use can cause an irregular heart rhythm that can prove deadly in some patients.

Atomoxetine And Prozac

Strattera and Prozac is another risky combination. When atomoxetine is mixed with Prozac, the blood concentration of atomoxetine increases. This causes severe side effects and greatly increases the risk of overdose. It also produces an irregular heart rhythm that can be deadly.

Atomoxetine And Lexapro

As in the case with Zoloft, Strattera and Lexapro can be deadly when combined due to their impact on the heart. The irregular heart rhythm produced is uncomfortable at best and deadly at worst. Users should avoid combining Lexapro with atomoxetine.

Foods To Avoid While Taking Strattera

While it comes as a surprise to many, food can have negative or even deadly interactions with some medications. Perhaps the most significant to be aware of is Strattera and caffeine, as this can result in unusual heart rhythm. Any foods or drinks with stimulating or depressant effects should be used with caution. Always consult with a doctor regarding any food interactions.

differenr drugs which can interact with Strattera

Other Drug Interactions

Other drug interactions to be aware of include:

How To Stop Taking Atomoxetine

Strattera discontinuation, whether due to the Strattera cost or symptoms of use, should be done correctly. Atomoxetine should not be stopped suddenly, as this can have negative side effects. Users should consult with medical professionals on a tapering schedule and take a safe and effective approach to end their use.

Patients who are considering stopping the medication should be aware of the possibility of Strattera withdrawal symptoms. Unlike stimulant ADHD medications, stopping Strattera generally does not produce a crash. However, it can result in things like extreme changes in mood, suicidal thoughts, and extreme lethargy. As such, tapering off the medication under medical supervision is best.

Getting Help With Atomoxetine Misuse

If someone has been misusing or abusing atomoxetine, they need to seek help in getting clean. Drug addiction rehab centers understand how to both detox the patient and give them strategies to stay clean for the long term. The patient-centered addiction treatment programs are what most rehabs offer.

Page Sources

  1. FDA approves first generic Strattera for the treatment of ADHD. The US Food & Drug Administration. 2017. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-generic-strattera-treatment-adhd.
  2. Evans EA, Sullivan MA. Abuse and misuse of antidepressants. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation. 2014; 5: 107–120. 2014. doi:10.2147/SAR.S37917.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4140701/.
  3. Upadhyaya HP, Desaiah D, Schuh KJ, et al. A review of the abuse potential assessment of atomoxetine: a nonstimulant medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013; 226(2): 189–200. doi:10.1007/s00213-013-2986-z. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3579642/.
  4. STRATTERA (atomoxetine HCl): Package Insert. Eli Lilly and Company. 2002. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2002/21411_strattera_lbl.pdf.
  5. Fenderson JL, Stratton AN, Domingo JS, Matthews GO, Tan CD. Amphetamine positive urine toxicology screen secondary to atomoxetine. Case Reports in Psychiatry. 2013; 2013: 381261. doi: 10.1155/2013/381261. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23424703.
  6. Tirado CF, Goldman M, Lynch K, Kampman KM, Obrien CP. Atomoxetine for treatment of marijuana dependence: a report on the efficacy and high incidence of gastrointestinal adverse events in a pilot study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2008; 94(1-3): 254–257. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.10.020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3812929/.

Published on: November 13th, 2019

Updated on: March 11th, 2020

About Author

Roger Weiss, MD

Dr. Roger Weiss is a practicing mental health specialist at the hospital. Dr. Weiss combines his clinical practice and medical writing career since 2009. Apart from these activities, Dr. Weiss also delivers lectures for youth, former addicts, and everyone interested in topics such as substance abuse and treatment.


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