The pediatric practitioner is often the first point-of-contact for children and adolescents suffering from mental illness. Part of the treatment planning for psychiatric diagnoses includes consideration of medication. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, one of the most common diagnoses, is very responsive to stimulant medications; for children who are unable to tolerate stimulants or who do not achieve satisfactory symptom management, central α-agonists and atomoxetine are effective and generally well-tolerated alternative or augmentative agents. Depression and anxiety disorders are also frequently encountered in the pediatric office setting. The use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors is considered first-line psychopharmacology for depression and anxiety symptoms. Despite concerns for suicidal ideation related to this medication class, the benefits typically outweigh the risks. This review provides basic clinical pharmacology of stimulant and nonstimulant attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder medications and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors intended to serve as a primer for the general pediatrician.

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