The news that 11 percent of U.S. children are now diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) comes at a time when doctors are increasingly concerned about overuse of medication for the condition.
An analysis of 2012 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 11 percent of U.S. children ages 4 to 17 have ADHD, the New York Times reported. About 65 percent of kids with ADHD receive stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall, the Times said.
Just last month, a group of neurologists warned against prescribing the medications for kids who don’t need them.
The decision of whether to put children with ADHD on medication is not one that’s taken lightly. Here are five things to know about the medications:
What are the short- and long-term effects of ADHD medications?
Short-term side effects of ADHD medication include nervousness, appetite suppression, insomnia and increases in blood pressure and heart rate.
Because ADHD stimulants such as Ritalin have been used for decades, they are thought to be relatively safe over the long term, said Dr. Michael Duchowny, a pediatric neurologist at Miami Children’s Hospital.
However, some say that, because conditions such as heart attacks are and strokes are rare in children, it’s hard to know whether stimulants actually increase the risk of these events, said Dr. William Graf, a professor of pediatrics and neurology at Yale School of Medicine.
Children who are inappropriately diagnosed with ADHD, or those who have other mental health conditions, may be at increased risk for mood disorders or aggressive behavior while on the medication, Duchowny said.
And more research is needed to determine whether taking the medications for a “mental boost” could affect the developing brain, Graf said.