Harvard Mental Health Letter

Commentary: ADHD drugs and heart risk for children

If your child is being treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may have one less thing to worry about. A study involving 1.2 million children and young adults provided reassuring evidence that the drugs used to treat ADHD do not increase the risk of death from heart disease.

Researchers, who published their results in October 2011 in The New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed medical records from a nationwide private insurance plan along with health plans based in Tennessee, California, and Washington State. They compared children taking stimulant drugs such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dextroamphetamine (Adderall) that are commonly used to treat ADHD with children not taking these drugs.

Among all of the children, heart attack, stroke, or sudden death were rare, affecting a little more than three in every 100,000 children per year. Cardiac problems were no more common among children using a stimulant as among those not taking one.

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