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ADHD Medications Do Not Cause Genetic Damage In Children

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2008-11-19 14:33

In contrast to recent findings, two of the most common medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do not appear to cause genetic damage in children who take them as prescribed, according to a new study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Duke University Medical Center.

The study published online this month in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) provides new evidence that therapeutic doses of stimulant medications, such as methylphenidate and amphetamine, do not cause cytogenetic (chromosomal) damage in humans. The researchers looked at three measures of cytogenetic damage in white blood cells of each child participating in the study and found no evidence of any changes after three months of continuous treatment.

"This is good news for parents," said Kristine L. Witt, M.Sc., a genetic toxicologist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and co-author on the study, which was funded through the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act by NIEHS and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), both parts of NIH. "Our results indicate that methylphenidate- and amphetamine-based products do not induce cytogenetic damage in children."

The researchers involved emphasize that the findings should not be interpreted as final proof of the long-term safety of stimulant drugs for the treatment of ADHD. "More research and close monitoring of children taking these medications for extended periods of time is needed to fully evaluate the physical and behavioral effects of prolonged treatment with stimulants," noted Scott H. Kollins, Ph.D., director of the Duke ADHD Program, where the study was conducted and a co-author of the paper.

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ADHD is a disorder characterized by attention problems, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. About 3 to 5 percent of children in the United States have been diagnosed with the disorder, although several studies suggest 7 to 12 percent of children may be affected.

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