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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 19:30 EDT

ADHD Has No Long-Term Impact On Kids’ Growth

June 19, 2010

A new study published online in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests that neither attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) nor medications used to treat it have a long-term impact on kids’ growth.

Previous studies have shown that medication may make kids with ADHD eat less and grow slower than their peers that do not have the condition.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 percent of boys and 6 percent of girl shave been diagnosed with ADHD.

“There have been concerns in the literature about the use of ADHD medications and their effect on growth,” Dr. Stephen Faraone, a psychiatrist at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, and one of the study’s authors, told Reuters Health. “We found that that (growth) delay tends to be most prominent in the first year or so, and tends to attenuate over time.”

Faraone and his colleagues measured and weighed 261 kids with and without ADHD that they had been following for at least ten years.  Most of the kids with ADHD had spent at least some of that time on stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall.

There was no difference at the end of the study in height or weight of the kids.  There was also no relationship between their height and weight and how long they had been on medication.

Stimulant drugs are the most popular treatment for ADHD and are FDA approved because of this.  The FDA has also approved non-stimulant drugs, which are not thought to affect growth.  Many kids with ADHD get behavioral therapy and special help in the classroom instead of taking medications.

Stimulants have been shown to delay growth when kids take them for a long time.  The medications make some kids less hungry and might affect bone growth or the release of certain hormones that influence height.  However, this study supports growing evidence that those effects might balance out over the long term.

“I think that’s the general opinion, that there is maybe a temporary effect when you start treatment and then it goes away,” Dr. James Swanson, director of the Child Development Center at the University of California, Irvine, told Reuters Health. “That’s what this study essentially supports.”

Swanson, who was not involved in the research, said that any long-term follow-up study like this one will lose some of its original subjects along the way, which could affect the results.

The authors also point out that they could not weigh and measure all the kids before they started taking medication, and they did not always know what dose medications the kids were taking.

Swanson said that the study is interesting because it raises these questions, which further research can address.  He said to follow these kids for ten years was a substantial and significant effort.

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