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ADHD Meds Don't Increase Cardiovascular Risk in Children, Teens

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2011-05-16 10:10

Parents of children or teens who take ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) meds may feel some relief based on the findings of a new study. Researchers report that young users of ADHD drugs are no more likely to die from a severe cardiovascular event than youth who do not take the medications.

Severe cardiovascular risk was not evident

Nearly 5 percent of children ages 4 through 17 took an ADHD medication in 2007. A wide range of ADHD medications are on the market and available in short-, intermediate-, and long-acting forms. Some of the options include amphetamines (stimulant; e.g., Adderall, Adderall XR), atomoxetine (a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor [SNRI]; e.g., Strattera), and methylphenidate (stimulant; e.g., Concerta, Ritalin).

Previous research has indicated that use of stimulant ADHD medications can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate in children as well as trigger or exacerbate symptoms of aggression, anxiety, depression, and paranoia. Use of an SNRI has been shown to cause sleepiness, dizziness, mood swings, headache, nausea and vomiting, and abdominal pain. SNRIs carry a warning of an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or actions.

In the new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and HealthCore Inc., data in Medicaid databases from five states and from the HealthCore Integrated Research Database were considered. Records from a total of 241,417 patients ages 3 to 17 years who had been prescribed an amphetamine, atomoxetine, or methylphenidate were matched with nonuser controls.

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The patients had been taking their medications for a median of 135 days. Investigators compared rates of heart attack, stroke, and sudden death in patients taking ADHD medications with matched controls not taking medications over a median of 609 days.

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