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Growing Up With Ritalin: Just How Much Will One Grow?

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Loney says these findings could translate to the doctor's office. She suggests boys with adverse side effects "might be worth watching ... to follow their growth more carefully."

Karen Hochman, MD, reviewed the study for WebMD. She says, "It looks like a very good study, published in a very reputable journal." She does point out, however, that research should be done in a more diverse population since the participants were from the same geographical area, were mostly white, and were all male. Hochman is an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta.

Hochman tells WebMD that concerns about height and weight may have been brought on over the years by the fact that "sometimes you see kids with reduced appetites, so that would sort of logically lead to the concern, well, they're not eating as much, according to the parent, does that mean that they're not growing as much? That in my view is one of the more common side effects -- reduced appetite." But you can work around that, she says.

So, does this close the book on the issue of Ritalin's effect on childhood growth? Yes, and no, according to Loney. She says, yes, this is "an important study" and "it certainly fits in, I think, with what everybody else has found. It suggests that there might be some small effect on some children for some variables, but in general I think everybody has found that there aren't major effects."

But no, it's not the end of the subject, yet. Even though Loney says the study is solid, a couple of follow-up studies are still needed.

Vital Information:

 

  • The drug Ritalin, which is widely used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has long been suspected of permanently suppressing height and weight in children, but new research shows this may not be true.
  • In a study that followed boys taking Ritalin from childhood to adulthood, their maximum height and weight did not significantly differ from that of their families, community, or those with behavior problems not taking medication.
  • One exception to this finding is that boys who took larger doses of Ritalin and experienced nausea and vomiting as a side effect to the drug were shorter and lighter at age 21.
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