Stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall are a common treatment for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There is concern, however, that these drugs may stunt children’s growth. In a new study published in the Sept. 1 online journal Pediatrics, researchers found that the drugs do not affect children’s final growth as adults.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age – or 6.4 million – have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011. Children with the disorder generally have trouble paying attention or controlling impulsive behaviors and are overly active. Although it may seem counterintuitive, stimulant medications have a calming effect on children with ADHD.
To address the ongoing concern that stimulant drugs adversely affect the growth of the children who take them, researchers studied 340 children with ADHD who were born between 1976 and 1982 and compared their final heights with 680 children who did not have the disorder. The average follow-up time was 26 years for study participants with ADHD and 23 years for those who did not have ADHD.
Study findings showed that there was no difference in final adult height between those who took ADHD drugs and those who didn’t. Boys with ADHD who took stimulant drugs for three months or more had a growth spurt at a later age than boys who were not treated with stimulants, but there was no difference in the size of the growth spurt, said the investigators. In addition, there was no connection between the amount of time a child took the drugs and their final adult height.
“Neither childhood ADHD itself nor stimulant medication was associated with shorter stature as adults,” co-author Slavica Katusic, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., told HealthDay.
Still, Katusic cautioned that despite the study’s findings, doctors should monitor growth when making medication decisions.
”Our study says don’t worry at all, but human beings are all different and you always have to be careful,” she said.