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ADHD in Children Health Center

ADHD Drugs and Growth

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Will ADHD Medications Affect My Child's Growth? continued...

The early studies on ADHD medications and children's growth lasted only a few months, making it difficult to determine whether the growth lag would be permanent. Findings from some studies with longer follow-up periods have been inconsistent, but suggest that differences in growth narrow over treatment time. 

Before you panic and switch your child's medication, know that the slowed growth doesn't seem to be permanent. The biggest impact on growth appears to be in the first year of taking the medications. After that, the impact starts to decline. Eventually, kids on ADHD medications go into a "growth spurt" and catch up to their peers in height and weight. A study that followed children with ADHD for 10 years into adulthood found that the kids who'd been taking stimulants ended up no shorter -- or thinner -- than peers without ADHD once they were adults.

What Should Parents Do?

Until ADHD drugs have been studied for a few more years and researchers can get more insight into what happens to kids when they become full-grown adults, it will be difficult for researchers to know exactly how much of an impact ADHD medications have on children's growth. If your child is taking ADHD medication and is benefiting from the drugs, the improvement in behavior may outweigh any short-term effects on growth. That's something you need to discuss with your pediatrician.

While your child is taking ADHD medications, the doctor should keep careful track of his or her growth. You might need to adjust your child's diet, adding more energy-dense, nutritious foods and snacks to balance out any weight loss that's occurring.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Patricia Quinn, MD on March 17, 2013
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