Educate the parents that Bupropion sometimes causes suicidal ideation in children

Decision Point One:

Begin Wellbutrin (bupropion) XL 150 mg orally daily


Client returns to clinic in four weeks

Katie’s parents inform you that they stopped giving Katie the medication because about 2 weeks into the prescription, Katie told her parents that she was thinking about hurting herself. This scared the parents, but they didn’t want to “bother you” by calling the office, so they felt that it would be best to just stop the medication as they would be seeing you in two weeks

Decision Point #Two:

Select what the PMHNP should do next:

Educate the parents that Bupropion sometimes causes suicidal ideation in children and that this is normal, and restart the drug at the previous dose


Client returns to clinic in four weeks

Katie’s parents again report that after about a week of treatment with the Bupropion, Katie began telling her parents that she wanted to hurt herself and began having dreams about being dead. This scared her parents and they stopped giving her the medication

At this point, they are quite upset with the results of their daughter’s treatment and are convinced that medication is not the answer

Decision Point # Three:

Select what the PMHNP should do next:

Refer the parents to a pediatric psychologist who can use behavioral therapy to treat Katie’s ADHD

Guidance to Student

Bupropion is used off-label for ADHD and is used more commonly in adults. It’s mechanism of action results in increasing the neurotransmitters norepinephrine/noradrenaline and dopamine. Since dopamine is inactivated by norepinephrine reuptake in frontal cortex, (which largely lacks dopamine transporters) bupropion can increase dopamine neurotransmission in this part of the brain, which may explain its effectiveness in ADHD. However, Bupropion as well as other antidepressants have been linked to suicidal ideation in children and adolescents- despite the fact that it was being used initially to treat ADHD, it is still an antidepressant.

At this point, the parents are probably quite frustrated as no parent wants to hear their child talking about hurting themselves or having dreams about being dead. If the parents are adamant about no more medications, referral to a pediatric psychologist or similar therapist skilled in the use of behavioral therapies to treat ADHD in children. However, it should be noted that behavioral therapies work best when combined with medication, however, if the parents are insistent, then behavioral therapy may be the only alternative left in the treatment of Katie.

In terms of the pathophysiology of ADHD, whereas it may be true that increasing age may demonstrate some improvement in symptoms (some people will actually experience complete resolution of symptoms by adulthood), it is not helping Katie in the here and now. Katie still needs help with her symptoms which are causing academic issues.

The PMHNP should attempt to repair the rupture in the therapeutic alliance (the parents now believe that medications are not the answer) by explaining rationale for the use of Bupropion (many people like to start with Bupropion because it has a low-risk for addiction). The family should be encouraged to allow the PMHNP to initiate Adderall as it has a very good track record in terms of its efficacy in treating ADHD.

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