Growing Up With Ritalin: Just How Much Will One Grow?
"In all of those cases, the heights and weights were essentially the same, so it doesn't look as if there's a major difference between those Ritalin-treated boys and any of those comparison groups," Loney tells WebMD.
However, two factors did account for a significant difference in height and weight at age 21, writes Kramer. Nausea and vomiting, which can occur with higher doses of Ritalin, were associated with smaller stature in adulthood. If a study participant had initial nausea, they were predicted to be shorter at age 21 by an average of 2.6 inches; if they took high doses of the drug, they were predicted to be nine pounds lighter at 21.
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.