Like clonidine, Tenex is also in the class of drugs called antihypertensive medications, used for treating high blood pressure. Tenex, whose generic name is guanfacine, works by regulating the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. By specifically controlling the nerve impulses to the heart, the medication causes a relaxation of blood vessels so that blood passes more easily between them, and this, in turn, lowers blood pressure. Tenex is only available in pill form at present.
Tenex has also been found effective in treating the symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention associated with ADHD. For this reason, it is being used “off label” in treating young people. It also creates a sedating, sleepy effect, which is why it may be recommended for your child, though it is considered less sedating than clonidine. There are no studies for Tenex that focus upon the safety and effectiveness of its use by children and teens. So, although a standard adult dosage is 1 mg once a day at bedtime, consult with your child's doctor to determine an appropriate dose specific to your child.
The lengthy list of potential side effects of Tenex may also be a deterrent. Like clonidine, the side effects of Tenex range from common nuisance-type reactions to some reactions that are quite severe. Other possible side effects associated with Tenex are dizziness, dry mouth, constipation, burning, itchy red eyes (conjunctivitis), headaches, upset stomach and vomiting, weakness, chest pain, difficulty breathing, insomnia, heart palpitations (feeling like the heart is suddenly racing or skipping beats), urinary incontinence (your toilet-trained child starts wetting himself), skin inflammation, blotchiness, or rash, blurry vision, leg cramps, fainting, and abdominal pain.
As always, you will want to thoroughly discuss all medications with your child and doctor to be certain that the best-recommended prescription is being made to meet your child's needs, and that the plusses of taking a medication like Tenex far outweigh the negatives.
This chapter concludes the discussion of medications that may be prescribed to relieve bipolar symptoms in your child. Introducing any of these medications into the body of a growing and developing child or teen can have both benefits and serious side effects. There are many unknown variables and, as you've read repeatedly, little research to support the safety and effectiveness of such medications in kids. As a parent, you know your child best; always rely on your parental instinct to act as a guide when something feels right or seems “off.” Where medication is concerned, your child's mental and physical health is at issue.