Some disturbing new evidence is coming to light about the stimulant drugs, such as Ritalin, used to treat kids with ADHD. In a small number of children, the drugs have caused sudden death; in fact, kids treated with these drugs are seven times more likely to die suddenly than kids who are not.
Madelyn Gould, a professor of clinical epidemiology at Columbia University/NewYork State Psychiatric Institute, was asked by the FDA to look at the safety of ADHD drugs after some reports of deaths started coming in. She examined the death records of 1,128 children from 1985 to 1996 and found those taking stimulants drugs were much more likely to die.
However, Gould herself doesn’t recommend taking children off the drugs; instead, she suggests that parents make sure their pediatricians thoroughly screen their children for cardiovascular abnormalities before putting them on the drugs. Doctors should take a full family history and do additional screening if the child has risk factors for heart disease. They should also be monitored regularly to check for any alarming increases in blood pressure.
Even if the risk is small, it’s pretty scary. But as someone who’s lived with untreated ADD, it really affected my performance in school and can make even day to day life as an adult more difficult than it has to be. It’s just another tough choice we have to weigh as parents – don’t treat something that can very negatively affect our kids, or treat it but worry about the higher risk. Parents of kids with ADD or ADHD, what do you think? Are there other things you’ve tried that work or don’t work as well?