Here’s another study to help allay the fears parents may have about stimulant medications for ADHD.  Renee Despres at ehealthMD reviews it:

Parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are often concerned about the safety and long-term effects of medications used to help manage  ADHD symptoms. But a recent animal study by a Wake Forest Baptist research team suggests that these fears may be unfounded. In this study of juvenile monkeys, the researchers found that Ritalin – the stimulant drug most commonly prescribed for ADHD – did not affect the developing brain, physical growth, or increase the risk of later substance abuse.

The diagnosis and treatment of ADHD truly requires a team approach among parents, children, teachers, therapists, and pediatricians.  Monitoring the treatment with “med rechecks” every three months is vital for success.

 Other research funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) shows that medication is most effective when the doctor who prescribes the drug monitors treatment regularly and adjusts the dose based on the child’s needs.

Pediatricians understand how inconvenient an office visit every three months can be.  Prescriptions can only be written by hand on special prescription paper.  (They cannot be sent electronically to your pharmacy, nor can we send the prescription in the mail due to the fact that stimulant medications are considered Schedule II controlled substances.)  Medically, we are specifically checking:

  • Pulse and blood pressure.  These can be affected by stimulants.
  • Height and weight.  Though many kids with ADHD are limited eaters to begin with, stimulant medications frequently diminish appetite, especially at lunchtime.  This can affect growth and, specifically, weight gain, and these need to be monitored regularly.
  • Medication side effects.  Though uncommon, pediatricians need to be aware of headaches, chest pains, appetite suppression, sleep issues, and irritability, as well as the presence or absence of co-morbidities such as anxiety and depression.
  • Sleep patterns.  Many children with ADHD have a hard time winding down and falling asleep even before medications are started.  Stimulants typically don’t help this problem and, occassionally, may exacerbate it.
  • Mood.  These medications can sometimes make kids more irritable, and, when the effect is marked, can be a reason to discontinue them.  Add to that a tween or teen who may have some other common reasons for moodiness, and you have a potential problem that needs to be addressed in the office.  Assessing your child’s overall happiness at EVERY office visit is so important for your pediatrician to do, and it’s not always easy.***
  • Behavior.  One reason we start medications is to try  to improve distracted and impulsive behavior, both at home and school.  How well we do on this count helps us determine the proper dose and effectiveness of the medication we are using.
  • School performance.  Most children with ADHD have poor organizational skills. Medications improve focusing in the classroom, allowing kids to be less distracted and more on task, laying the foundation for improving organization.  These medications do not in themselves improve organization, however.  That comes from years of parental and teacher attention and practice by the student.  It’s also important for your pediatrician to continue to assess the possibility of co-existing learning differences and disabilities.


***  Any time your child is irritable or moody, try to give them something to eat first, before engaging them in conversation or expecting something from them (like starting homework).  This YouTube video may explain this better!

Read ehealthMD article here: