Columbia University Medical Center
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell
June 15, 2009

Just when parents thought they could spend a week or two not worrying about the health effects of Ritalin, Adderall, and other drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, another study comes along to raise the question once again: Are the medications used to treat ADHD safe enough for kids? Again, the answer is: Probably.

The latest worry spike comes from a report that assessed the risk in children who died suddenly between 1985 and 1996. Researchers led by Madelyn Gould, a professor of clinical epidemiology and psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, found that 10 of 564 children who died suddenly had been taking stimulant drugs, compared with 2 of 564 who died in car accidents. That would make you think that children taking stimulants are much more likely to suffer a sudden death. And that would square with ongoing concerns that stimulant drugs raise the risk of heart problems in children, which culminated in an April 2008 recommendation from the American Heart Association that all children be screened for heart problems with an EKG before being prescribed stimulants for ADHD.

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