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For years I have been treating children and adults with ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder).  An estimated 2.7 million children and 1.5 million adults are prescribed medications for this disorder.

The struggle for many parents is whether or not to medicate a child. For kids who truly have ADHD, medications can really help, but like with all medications, there are side effects and risks. Parents have to weigh those risks against the benefits. Typical side effects include decreased appetite, weight loss, slow growth in children, anxiety, sleep difficulties and modest increases in blood pressure and heart rate.

Among these side effects, heart concerns rank high. In 2005, there were about a dozen deaths from sudden cardiac arrest in young people who used Adderall. Even though Canada reacted by temporarily banning the use of Adderall, those deaths proved to be unrelated to the drug and the use of Adderall was reinstated. However, this raised on-going concerns about the safety of ADHD medications related to the heart. Then in 2008, the American Heart Association recommended children who used ADHD medications undergo cardiac screening and testing before they are dosed.

Two recent studies should bring a little peace of mind (see the Journal of the America Medical Association (JAMA)on-line and the New England Journal of Medicine).

One study tracked 1.2 million children and young adults. The other followed 500,00 adults. Both studies found NO increased risk for heart-related problems in users of ADHD medications. Keep in mind that because these studies did not find an increase risk for heart problems, this does not mean the drugs are completely safe. But at least parents have data that shows that as far as we know, taking the medications does not increase risk for serious cardiovascular problems.

 

 

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