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ADHD in Children Health Center

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ADHD Drug Does Stunt Growth

After 3 Years on Ritalin, Kids Are Shorter, Lighter Than Peers

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Swanson and colleagues note that the study did not test the sustained-release stimulant medications that are now the standard treatment for ADHD.

Omar Khwaja, MD, PhD, a neurologist at Children's Hospital in Boston, last year analyzed studies of different ADHD drugs and found strong evidence that ADHD drugs do, indeed, stunt children's growth. In fact, Khwaja and colleagues calculated a growth effect that almost exactly matches the effect seen in the Swanson study.

But Khwaja agrees with Swanson that nobody yet knows what the long-term results of this side effect will be.

"Whether there will be rebound growth at end of puberty, the jury is still out," Khwaja tells WebMD.

"Parents have to be aware that stimulants are an enormous benefit to a lot of children with ADHD, but there is reason to be cautious with all medicines that affect the brain," he says. "Growth monitoring should be standard practice for kids taking these medications."

Swanson and colleagues report their findings in the August issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Other findings from this large study show that both ADHD drugs and behavioral therapy work in children.

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