Risks Seen for Preschoolers Taking Ritalin

A new long-term government study has cautioned that young children using <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/ritalin">Ritalin are more susceptible to side effects than older children. While the study did find that Ritalin was moderately effective in treating preschoolers with ADHD, the researchers urged medical professionals to monitor them carefully. Side effects may include slowed growth, insomnia, weight loss, and irritability.

Currently, Ritalin has not been approved for use in children under 6, although thousands of preschoolers have been prescribed Ritalin “off label.” The study, to be published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, was conducted in eight stages over the course of 70 weeks and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Most significantly, the study changes the risk-benefit analysis when treating younger children who have severe attention deficit disorders and hyperactivity. To be sure, Ritalin can be beneficial to these children, but the study highlights the basic fact that the drug is less effective–and more dangerous–when used on preschoolers as opposed to older children.

NIMH director Thomas Insel told WebMD, “The way I see it, the efficacy is there. It is not as strong or robust an effect as we have seen in other randomized trials in school-age kids. If the question is, ‘Does this medication work for these kids under age 6?’ the answer is yes. It is an effect that is somewhat less than you would see in older kids, and comes with more side effects. But this confers some benefit in at least some of the kids.”

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