Research has shown that treating children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with drugs is not effective in the long-term. After three years of treatment, drugs such as Ritalin and Concerta work no better than therapy.
Long-term use of the drugs can also stunt children’s growth, and the benefits of the drugs have been exaggerated.
An influential 1999 study seemed to find that medication worked better than behavioral therapy for ADHD after one year of use. This finding caused a vast increase in prescriptions.
But now, after longer-term analysis, the report’s co-author, Professor William Pelham of the University of Buffalo, has stated, “I think that we exaggerated the beneficial impact of medication in the first study. We had thought that children medicated longer would have better outcomes. That didn’t happen to be the case. There’s no indication that medication is better than nothing in the long run.”
Pelham said that medication had “no beneficial effects” and that in fact, the drugs had a negative impact in terms of growth rate.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence in England is currently revising their treatment guidelines for ADHD to include strategies that will likely involve training for parents as well as “behavioral interventions”.
“The important thing is that we have an approach which doesn’t focus just on one type of treatment,” Dr. Tim Kendall, chair for the working group, said.
* BBC News November 12, 2007 Department of Health Statement