Tenex (generic Guanfacine) is a medication that has been used for years as a mild antihypertensive.  In the body and in the lower brain centers it reduces the release of norepinephrine (sometimes called noradrenalin).  In the prefrontal cortex in the front of the brain it decreases sensitivity to distracting stimuli and therefore helps with focus (on target stimulus).  A slow release form of Tenex will likely be FDA approved for ADHD within the next year or two. There are good controlled studies showing that Tenex benefits many ADHD symptoms although it doesn’t help with boredom or enhance ability to focus on things the ADHD individual has low interest in.  Only stimulants help the full range of ADHD symptoms and that’s why stimulants are considered the first line treatment.

Stimulants increase norepinephrine throughout the brain and sometimes in the body.  In the prefrontal cortex this helps decrease distractibility but in other areas of the brain it sometimes causes nervousness, insomnia, decreased appetite, or irritability and in the body can cause muscle twitches, stomach ache, or increased blood pressure.  In the lower brain centers in children it has sometimes been found to delay growth.

All of these negative effects can be reduced or eliminated by Tenex (Guanfacine) plus distractibility is further improved.  If taken in too high a dose it can cause sluggishness or dizziness and occasionally can cause swelling.  It is one of my top 10 most frequently prescribed medications – usually with stimulants or sometimes antidepressants.  It can be taken once or twice daily (See how to take) because it has a half life of 16 hours – it can be effective if taken just once a day.

Tenex is related to Clonidine.  But Tenex is 10 times stronger in the prefrontal cortex than in lower brain centers where Clonidine has the same potency in all brain areas and is therefore much more sedating – sometimes causing morning drowsiness when taken at night.  But some people need the higher sedation at night and it has a stronger enhancement of growth hormone – in fact Clonidine is sometimes abused by body builders to increase muscle building.

Many of my patients have found Tenex to be helpful for social anxiety.  It reduces symptoms like sweating, and dry mouth but it also decreases distractibility.  People with social anxiety are distracted by negative or “what if” thoughts.  They are also distracted by physical symptoms and they are distracted by any negative cues in their environment, e.g., if giving a presentation and one person yawns the immediate thought is, “I must be boring”.  It’s very hard to do a good presentation when your mind is jumping all over the place.  Stimulants also help social anxiety by increasing control of what you focus on.  The combination of stimulants (such as Adderall XR, Daytrana) and Tenex is especially helpful in lowering public speaking anxiety symptoms so that with adequate opportunities to practice, public anxiety response will gradually desensitize.

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