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Do ADHD Drugs Cause Sudden Death?

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This week, a study came out that scared us big-time ... it suggests that children and teens who take stimulants like Ritalin for ADHD have an increased risk for sudden cardiac death. Our pediatrician weighs in.


A new study in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that children and teens who take stimulants like Ritalin for ADHD have an increased risk for sudden cardiac death.

Researchers collected data on stimulant use among 564 children and teenagers who died unexpectedly of unknown causes and an equal number who died as passengers in auto accidents. Many of the unexplained deaths were later attributed to previously undiagnosed cardiac arrhythmias.

They concluded that the odds of using stimulant medication were six to seven times greater among the children who died suddenly of unexplained causes than among those who died in car crashes.

The FDA says, "Given the limitations of this study's methodology, the FDA is unable to conclude that these data affect the overall risk-and-benefit profile of stimulant medications used to treat ADHD in children."

Pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson says: "Medications are not without risks. We say that to our patients repeatedly, but this most recent study reminds us of that fact very poignantly. There are many steps that doctors take when they prescribe stimulant medication in order to maximize safety: they make sure a patient really needs the medicine, they take histories and do physical exams, and they do baseline EKGs. What worries me is that many of these stimulant medications have developed a street following, with friends giving medicines to other friends or even selling them to peers. Adolescents and young adults often think these drugs are benign -- safe ways of increasing alertness and helping to pull an all-nighter. This study is a stark reminder that they are not."

Are your kids on ADHD medicine? Does this study make you question that decision?

next: Blogger Apologizes for Sick Baby Hoax
10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Pam June 16, 2009, 9:23 PM

Yeah… ok they run all the tests right? My nephews 9 and 10 years old came to live with me and my husband last summer. I took them off the ritalin then and there. 1 year later and there is absolutely NO signs they ever needed it.

So that a dr. runs tests etc and it isn’t given unless it’s truly necessary is just plain B.S.

Allison June 16, 2009, 10:21 PM

I am very happy that people are finally starting to see this! These are dangerous drugs that are not actually needed! Change their diet (or many other things that could be wrong) and don’t try to cover up the problem with a drug. That is not going to stop it, just hide it!

Thanks for posting this as it is very scary to have even a thought about losing your child. Awareness needs to be brought up on this so that moms don’t let their kids be put on these dangerous drugs!

Anonymous June 16, 2009, 10:52 PM

My stepchild is on adhd meds and has NEVER had an EKG or anything of the sort.

Linda  June 16, 2009, 11:48 PM

My son takes drugs on days he goes to school and believe me he needs them. He would be flunking without them. As it is, his grades are shaky. Most of the time good, but sometimes not.

Jill June 17, 2009, 12:11 AM

Im sorry but kids will be kids.. i believe that if the child is treated right by there parents then there is no need for drugs.. so a kid gets hyper or does not listen well… ummm hello, that’s what kids do.. i see this med as a way for parents to get outta working with there child. again sorry i know some will not like this but its just what i think.

kris June 17, 2009, 11:00 AM

children under 5 should not be diagnosis with and given adhd drugs unless seen by a clinical psychologist first and foremost. This info was imparted to me by my son’s very upset primary care doctor who ran blood tests on my 3 year and was wondering why he had the drug rhandin in his system. This drug left my son incoherant, he drolled excessively, he cried at the drop of a hat, and what broke my heart the most. Is he didn’t recognize me when he saw me when I came to pick him up from daycare. He stared at me for 5 minutes until I said poor baby want to give mommie a hug. He then stumbled to me and hugged me. I vowed from that day that my son would never take another drug again. And this drug was given to him because he was being a rambucious 3 yr old at daycare and they didn’t want that. I was deployed to Kuwait in the Army at the time and my husband was in Iraq. We left him with my mom, god to think back on that time really pisses me off, that instead of addressing the behavior with time outs and taking away toys, they wanted to cover it up with drugs. Parent your kid don’t over medicate the child as you can see its not helpful in the long run, but even more deadly.

chris June 17, 2009, 3:13 PM

When my son was in 1st grade his teacher told me that I should have him seen by a doctor because she thought he had trouble focusing. I made the appt and took him in and the doctor gave me forms for his teacher and I to fill out and bring back which I did and then she looked at them a wrote him a prescribion and that was that. We decided not to put him on them. Again, in 4th grade his teacher talked about him taking too long to do his work and not focusing in class so we took him again to another doctor and this doctor didn’t even have us fill out form or anything before she wrote out a prescibion. When I told her that we would NOT put him on medicine and asked about other ways that were more natural to treat him, she looked at me like I was crazy! I can tell you that neither doctor did blood work or EKG but both were quick to put him on drugs. He’s 14 now and over the years he has matured more and is able to do his school work just fine. He will never be a straight A students but he is a A and B student. I’m so glad we never gave into the pressure to medicate him.

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