Saturday, March 12, 2016

No evidence Ritalin makes a difference long term for ADHD kids

Drugs such as Ritalin make no difference to the long-term outcomes of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, who continue to struggle academically and mentally as they get older, early research findings suggest.

The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute has been following 178 children with ADHD and 212 children without ADHD for three years to identify what factors make a difference to the development of children with the disorder.

By the age of seven there are severe academic, social and mental health differences between children with ADHD and their peers, the Children's Attention Project, which is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, found. Three years on, these disparities persist, preliminary findings suggest.

Four times as many 10-year-olds with ADHD suffer from mental health problems such as anxiety and oppositional disorder. They are also well behind their peers in their maths and reading abilities. There was no difference in outcomes between boys and girls.

"All of them continue to be substantially at risk of academic and mental health problems as they had been at seven," one of the chief investigators of the project, paediatrician Daryl Efron said.

The 13 per cent of children in the study who were taking medication such as Ritalin to treat their ADHD were doing no better or worse than their unmedicated peers at age 10. "Medication doesn't alter the long-term outcomes of kids [with ADHD]," Dr Efron said. He cautioned that the project wasn't designed to test the long-term effectiveness of drugs.

Dr Efron said drugs like Ritalin were very effective in reducing the day-to-day symptoms of ADHD "but we haven't progressed very much beyond that".

"Medication is fantastic for treating the symptoms of ADHD . . . helping kids be calmer and focus better. It doesn't surprise me that so far we haven't shown medication makes a difference to kids doing better into the future."

Dr Efron said doctors need to find out what combination of support and intervention does make a difference long-term. He suggested it could involve medication, parent support and remedial strategies.[...]

Paula Burgess has found that occupational therapy and the family's new dog have made the most difference to her seven-year-old son, Jesse, who has ADHD. Jesse will ask his mum to rock him on the yoga ball when he feels his symptoms escalating.[...]

It's been a far more positive experience than the disastrous six weeks Jesse spent on Ritalin. While his teachers noticed an improvement, Jesse's anxiety spiralled, and he would lash out at his mother when he got home from school, kicking and punching her.[...]


  1. Who knows how many of the mental health problems they identified in later life are directly related to the Ritalin? There's considerable evidence for this, as documented in Robert Whitaker's "Anatomy of an Epidemic."

  2. I tutor students one-on-one. Some of my students have taken prescription drugs like Ritalin. I can generally tell they are on these drugs, even if the parents or student haven't told me in advance. I call the phenomenon"Eyes Turned Inward".

    The students report that the drug makes them able to focus. That is their perspective. From my perspective, it makes them unreachable and unteachable. They are off in their own world.

    Give me a kid running around. I can chase him and catch up with him, and engage him here and there on the subject we're learning. I'll take that any time over a kid sitting rock still, staring blankly, and/or unresponsive.

    If you want a student who is bouncing around to act mellow, I say give him some alcohol before you give him Ritalin. Not that I'm recommending giving kids alcohol. Just that I think it would work better than Ritalin.


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