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Children Should Have Heart Tests Before Taking ADHD Drugs

Armen Hareyan's picture

Children taking ADHD drugs are strongly recommended to pass electrocardiogram heart tests, because the drugs may increase risk for cardiovascular problems.

American Heart Association warns that stimulant medications, such as medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) treatment, have adverse side effects of increasing heart rate and boosting blood pressure. These side effects don't hurt those with healthy hearts, but those with weakened cardiovascular system may experience sudden heart attack, stroke, and even death.

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US and UK already have reported a few cases of heart problems occurring among children taking ADHD drugs. Between 1999 and 2004 19 children in US died and 26 children reported 'strokes, cardiac arrests and heart palpitations', according to FDA statistics.

In 2006 9 children taking ADHD drugs died in, 2 of them died from heart attack and enlarged heart as a result of drug side effect, according to UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

In US 2.5 million children and 1.5 million adults are taking ADHD drugs - methylphenidate drugs that are aimed at stimulating central nervous system. The most common drugs in use are Ritalin and Concerta. Current recommendations for drug use recommend regular check-ups for drug users, but electrocardiogram test is not mentioned among the check-up list.

These new recommendations urge all doctors to require patients to pass a heart test before prescribing ADHD drugs. Those already taking the drugs are also urged to pass electrocardiogram test for safety.