Qelbree (viloxazine) for ADHD: What you need to know

Qelbree (viloxazine) for ADHD: What you need to know

Reviewed by:
Caitlin Gardiner, MD
Staff Psychiatrist
at Talkiatry
March 31, 2024
In this article

If you’ve been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you might find it challenging to get organized, focus during conversations or while studying, or follow through on tasks for school or work. You might also feel fidgety or like you’re constantly “on the go.”

While the symptoms of ADHD may be uncomfortable, there are medications that can help reduce or manage them. One of these is Qelbree, a non-stimulant ADHD medication that can be used alone or alongside other treatment options such as therapy.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of Qelbree, such as how it works for the treatment of ADHD, its possible side effects, and how it compares to other treatments for this condition.

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What is Qelbree and how does it work?

Qelbree is the brand name for viloxazine, a medication that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ADHD in children 6 years or older, adolescents, and adults. This is a prescription drug, so you can’t get it over the counter. After a thorough evaluation and a diagnosis from a licensed doctor, like a psychiatrist, you may be given a prescription for Qelbree to help manage your ADHD symptoms.

Qelbree belongs to a class of medications called selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). SNRIs change the level of norepinephrine,  a chemical naturally produced by your brain. They do this by preventing brain cells (neurons) from reabsorbing norepinephrine, which makes more of it available for use in your brain. This in short can help relieve symptoms of ADHD.  

Viloxazine was actually first used in 1970 in Europe and the United Kingdom as an antidepressant medication for treating depression. It’s an alternative to stimulants, which are also used to treat ADHD, but have a higher potential for misuse, addiction, and sudden cardiac death.

How to take Qelbree for ADHD

Viloxazine is sold as an extended-release formula, meaning the pill will release the drug slowly to keep your dosage at a steady level for longer periods. If your doctor prescribes you Qelbree for treating ADHD, it is important to take this medication exactly as directed. The dose you are prescribed will likely depend on your age and other factors. You may start on a low dose, and if your symptoms don’t improve, your doctor may suggest a higher dose or a different medication.  

The recommended dosages for Qelbree are:

  • Children 6 to 11 years of age: Starting dosage is 100 milligrams (mg) per day, with a maximum dosage of 400 mg per day.
  • Adolescents 12 to 17 years of age: Starting dosage is 200 mg per day, with a maximum dosage of 400 mg per day.
  • Adults 18 years and older: Starting dosage is 200 mg per day, with a maximum dosage of 600 mg per day.

If you have severe kidney disease, your doctor may recommend that you start at 100 mg per day, even if you are older than 11 years of age. However, you will not take more than 200 mg per day.

Quelbree comes in a capsule, which can be swallowed whole. You can also open the capsule and sprinkle the entire contents on applesauce or pudding, as long as you consume it within 2 hours.

Does Qelbree cause withdrawal?

When you start taking a new medication, you may be wondering if it can cause withdrawal. If you stop taking SNRIs like Qelbree suddenly or miss a dose, you won’t usually have the kind of intense withdrawal symptoms, or “crash” can happen with stimulant medications used to treat ADHD such as amphetamines, which are a controlled substance. That said, you can still experience some discomfort and unwanted effects of discontinuation syndrome when you stop taking Qelbree. These symptoms may include fatigue, brain fog, and headache as well as symptoms of depression.

The key to taking medication is consistency so it’s important not to stop medication, including Qelbree, on your own. But starting it doesn’t mean you need to be on it forever. If you need to stop or pause for any reason, your doctor will help make sure your transition off is as smooth as possible.  

Potential side effects of Qelbree

Like many medications, Qelbree comes with possible side effects. The most common side effects are mild and usually go away, but depending on your overall health, they can sometimes be serious. These include:

For children and adolescents (age 6 to 17 years):

  • Drowsiness or a strong desire to fall asleep
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Irritability

Adults (age 18 years and older):

  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness or a strong desire to fall asleep
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation

Rare but serious side effects

Certain more serious side effects can also happen with Qelbree, but they’re usually rare. Your doctor will talk to you about these ahead of time, and ask you questions about your medical and family history in order to find the right treatment for you.  

Serious side effects of Qelbree can include:

  • Increases in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Unusually excessive energy, mood, behavior, and activity levels

If you experience any of these serious side effects, call your doctor or 911 right away.

Considerations: What to know before taking viloxazine

As with all prescription medications, viloxazine may interact with other drugs. If you are prescribed viloxazine, your doctor will try to make sure you can safely use it with your other medications. Potential drug interactions of viloxazine include:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI), which are used to treat depression. Qelbree should not be used within 14 days of taking an MAO inhibitor, before or after.
  • Sensitive CYP1A2 substrates or CYP1A2 substrates with a narrow therapeutic range. These should not be taken alongside viloxazine. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare professional if drugs or supplements you are taking fall into this category.

Who should not use viloxazine?

If you are taking one of the drugs listed above, your doctor may recommend that you don’t take viloxazine. There are other times when you might want to consider not taking viloxazine, including:

  • Pregnancy: Taking viloxazine while pregnant may increase the risks to you while you are pregnant.
  • Breastfeeding: If you are using viloxazine while breastfeeding, some of the drug may end up in your breastmilk.
  • Bipolar disorder: Taking viloxazine may worsen some symptoms of bipolar disorder.

If any of these situations apply to you, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of continuing to use viloxazine.

In addition, viloxazine can cause sleepiness and fatigue. So you should not drive, use machinery, or do other activities that require you to be alert until you know how this drug affects you.

Other ADHD medications

Qelbree is one medication used to treat ADHD, but it is not the only treatment option. Depending on your needs and your medical and family history, your doctor may recommend a different medication. Here are some other medications commonly used to treat ADHD:

  • Stimulants, such as amphetamine or methylphenidate. These are the most commonly used medications for treating ADHD. In spite of their name, stimulants can reduce feelings of hyperactivity in people with ADHD. These drugs are thought to work by increasing the level of the natural brain chemical dopamine, which is associated with attention and motivation.
  • Non-stimulants for the treatment of ADHD. In addition to Qelbree (viloxazine), these include Strattera (atomoxetine), Intuniv (guanfacine), and Kapvay (clonidine). These drugs work by changing the level of natural brain chemicals or by affecting parts of the brain that control attention and impulsivity.

Your doctor may also recommend other treatment options in addition to taking medication, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

If you think you have ADHD, know that help is available and treatment works. The first step is talking to a licensed mental health provider to get a diagnosis. It might feel overwhelming, but together, you and your doctor can explore your treatment options and whether Qelbree might work for you.

If you’re looking for a psychiatrist, consider Talkiatry. We’re a national mental health practice that treats people with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and more. To get started, take our free online assessment and be matched with the right Talkiatry psychiatrist for your needs.

Quelbree FAQs

Her are more answers about Qelbree as an option for ADHD treatment.  

Is Qelbree good for ADHD?

Clinical trials show that children who took Qelbree saw greater improvement in their ADHD symptoms compared to people who took an inactive placebo. While this medication has some side effects such as increasing heart rate and blood pressure and can cause discontinuation syndrome if you stop taking it suddenly, but has low potential for misuse and addiction.

Does Qelbree cause weight gain or loss?

If you take Qelbree every day for several weeks or longer, you may experience some weight loss. In clinical trials, some people taking Qelbree lost more weight than those who took a placebo. However, the amount of weight lost was small.

How is Qelbree different from Adderall?

Adderall is a mixture of two amphetamines—aka stimulants—that is used to treat ADHD, whereas Qelbree is a non-stimulant ADHD medication. Both types of medications can help you manage your ADHD symptoms, but Adderall may cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it suddenly or miss a dose.

The information in this article is for education and informational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

Dr. Caitlin Gardiner is a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Dr. Caitlin Gardiner's practice is based on the biopsychosocial model and believes that the foundation of healing is in psychotherapy and human connection. She is known for incorporating therapy into her medication management practice. Typically she offers 30-minute follow-up visits for medication management with focused therapy based on individual needs.

As a known helper, Dr. Gardiner started her career with a bachelors degree in social work from Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, NY. After changing career paths she received her medical degree from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY. She stayed at Upstate to complete her general psychiatry residency where she was chief resident during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following this, she completed her child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at Upstate due to the high quality of training. Dr. Gardiner has completed 3 years of advanced training in Dynamic Deconstructive Psychotherapy as well as specialized training in DBT.

Dr. Gardiner is a well -rounded psychiatrist who enjoys treating youth and young adults during transitional phases of life while providing a safe and supportive environment. She believes strongly in reducing polypharmacy and providing high-quality medication management through a therapeutic and developmental lens.

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