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Long Term Effects of ADHD Medication

By Virginia Franco ; Updated August 14, 2017

Due to the fact that many ADHD medications have only been around for a few decades at most, research on their long-term effects is limited. Many children who participated in initial ADHD medication clinical trials and studies are now young adults. Their experiences with ADHD medication can offer insight and data on its long-term safety and effects.

Growth Delays

Stimulant medications used for ADHD may stunt growth over the long-term, according to a author Nancy Shute in her 2009 "U.S. News & World Report" article “ADHD Drugs Don't Help Children Long Term.” Data analyzed from the MTA, or Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD, indicates children who never took stimulants end up taller and heavier than their medicated peers. As young adults, children who had taken stimulants for at least a three-year period were .75 inches shorter and 6 lbs. lighter than those who did not. The study also concluded that even after children stopped taking the medication, they did not make up the difference in growth.

Psychiatric Disorder Prevention

Dr. Nestor Lopez-Duran, author of the “Child Psychology Research Blog,” summarized the findings of Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Joseph Biderman, whose work examined the link between ADHD meds and future psychiatric conditions. Biderman’s study followed over 100 children with an ADHD diagnosis for a 10-year period. Some had used stimulant medication and others had not.

His findings indicated that those who took medication were less likely to develop psychiatric disorders like major depression, conduct disorder, oppositional defiance and various anxiety disorders. The study noted that ADHD medication did not have an impact on the risk of developing bipolar disorder.

Liver Damage

Long-term studies show that magnesium pemoline, a second-line ADHD treatment originally marketed as Cylert, can cause liver damage and even failure, according to an article published on the website. Although the Food and Drug Administration withdrew its Cylert approval in 2005, generic versions are still on the market as an alternative to mainstream stimulant medications. Though rare, reports have linked magnesium pemoline to 13 liver failure deaths since 1975. Patients who take this medication must have their liver tested regularly.

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