Harvard Mental Health Letter

ADHD update: New data on the risks of medication

Medications — chiefly the stimulants dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate — are the only proven treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with its symptoms of distractibility, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. But the benefits of stimulants last only as long as patients continue to take them, and worries about the risks of long-term use are again in the news.

Blood pressure and heart problems. Stimulants raise blood pressure and heart rate. New data are fueling a debate about how dangerous this is for people who take the drugs for extended periods. In 2005 Health Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the FDA, removed Adderall XR (an extended-release form of dextroamphetamine) from the market, citing a suspicious pattern of 20 sudden deaths and 12 strokes in children and adults taking the drug. The ban was lifted when many of these patients proved to have structural heart defects.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »