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ADD & ADHD Center

Is Adderall Safe for Children?

by
author image Jim Thomas
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.
Is Adderall Safe for Children?
Adderall might be dangerous to your health. Photo Credit Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

Adderall is a stimulant, an amphetamine that is used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, in children and teens. It also is used and sometimes abused by everyone from students looking for an edge on an exam to baseball players claiming ADHD in order to gain exemption from Major League Baseball's prohibition of amphetamines. The safety of Adderall for children is hotly debated, with health experts divided as to whether the drug poses unacceptable risks of heart attacks and stroke. Children often "grow out" of ADHD, so the question of whether or not to medicate a child is a difficult one.

Adderall and ADHD

There are a number of stimulants that are prescribed to kids with ADHD. Ritalin and Adderall might be the two best known amphetamines given to children. Although the cause and effect is not well understood, Adderall improves the main symptoms of ADHD -- inattention, poor impulse control and hyperactivity -- in a number of kids with ADHD, and sometimes the improvement is dramatic. So Adderall is a powerful weapon to treat ADHD, and the use of it and other stimulants to treat ADHD has increased greatly in the early years of the 21st century.

Side Effects

Both children and adults who take Adderall run the risks of nasty side effects, including decreased appetite, weight loss, insomnia, irritability and addiction. Twitches and tics might develop. The growth rate in children may be reduced, although the reduction appears to be a short-term effect. As MayoClinic.com explains, the most serious side effects of Adderall link the drug to a number of heart attacks and strokes.

Evidence

Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin raise your heart rate and blood pressure. A small number of heart attack deaths of children have occurred from taking Adderall. Supporters of Adderall claim the deaths occurred in kids with underlying heart conditions. However, critics of Adderall believe that theamphetamines are dangerous. In March 2011, a study released by the University of Pennsylvania and reported by CBS News found no more risk of death among stimulant users that non-users.



However, the study was criticized by other experts. Dr. Steven Nissen chairman of the cardiology department at the Cleveland Clinic says the study "is not very impressive. It's a very small, observational study, and I am worried that it is providing false assurance." Nissen is particularly concerned about the long-term effects of stimulants such as Adderall, since drugs that raise your blood pressure and heart rate often are linked to long-term heart damage.

Considerations

If your child suffers from ADHD, and your doctor recommends Adderall, you have a difficult decision to make. Some kids improve greatly on Adderall and suffer few side effects. As long as your child's heart condition is checked for abnormalities, Adderall appears to be safe. However, Adderall critic Nissen recommends that parents ask their doctor about nonstimulant medications such as Strattera, which appears to be as effective as Adderall and other stimulants. Strattera has side effects, but heart attacks and strokes are not associated with the drug.

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