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Boys on ADHD medication 'growing slower'

By Docta, Jan 21, 2013 | | |
  1. Docta
    A University of Sydney study (See .pdf attachment) has found adolescent boys being treated for ADHD are growing slower during puberty.

    The research finds that more than three years on ADHD medication can stunt their development.

    Dr Alison Poulton from the University of Sydney says boys with ADHD are shorter and thinner than their peers.

    "If a child stays on medication for three years they are about three centimetres shorter than they would be otherwise," she said.

    "The boys aged 12 to 14 were leaner and the boys aged 14 to 16 were not only slimmer but also slightly less tall.

    "And when we looked at the growth rate, how fast they were growing in height, we found that the bigger the dose, the slower their growth rate.

    "So that suggests that this is an effect of medication."

    Dr Poulton says doctors who prescribe ADHD medication should be careful about the dosages they give.

    "If a child is having a lot of trouble functioning at school or with their friends and the decision is made to treat, it is important to give a dose that's high enough to give that child the maximum benefit," she said.

    "But of course you don't want to give more medication than they need because of course the higher the dose, the more the effect.

    "So it's really important to keep in mind what's the benefits for that child and balance that against the disadvantages."

    Dr Poulton says adolescent boys on ADHD medication can catch up.

    "This cohort of children that we are studying, they haven't yet reached their adult height and I don't have data of my own on this," she said.

    "But other studies have suggested that men who are treated for ADHD in childhood end up a comparable height to their brothers and fathers.

    "The best evidence we have is that it doesn't have an effect on adult height but it probably takes them a bit longer to reach there."

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-21/adhd-ex-am/4473890


    Transcript of interview from Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) radio

    TONY EASTLEY: There are plenty of parents concerned about the negative effects of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) drugs on their children.

    Now research published in the Medical Journal of Australia has found that teenage boys who spent three years on stimulant medication for ADHD were thinner, shorter and progressed more slowly through puberty. The effect was more pronounced among those who were on higher dosages.

    The study's lead author is Dr Alison Poulton from the University of Sydney. She's been speaking with AM's Timothy McDonald.

    ALISON POULTON: If a child stays on medication for three years they are about three centimetres shorter than they would be otherwise. So the obvious question is, well, if it's having this effect on growth, is it just slowing growth or is it slowing physical development?

    So the next thing, one of the things that you can look at is what's the effect on puberty so that's what this study was about.

    TIMOTHY MCDONALD: What did the study find?

    ALISON POULTON: The boys aged 12 to 14 were leaner and the boys aged 14 to 16 were not only slimmer but also slightly less tall.

    And when we asked them about their puberty the boys aged 12 to 14 were at an equivalent stage of the normal non-ADHD boys, suggesting that boys with ADHD on stimulant medication enter puberty at the same age as other boys. But the boys aged 14 to 16 were a bit behind in their pubertal stage, suggesting that they progress more slowly through puberty.

    And when we looked at the growth rate, how fast they were growing in height, we found that the bigger the dose, the slower their growth rate. So that suggests that this is an effect of medication.

    TIMOTHY MCDONALD:
    Does it also argue that perhaps doctors who are prescribing ADHD medication should be careful about what dosage they give?

    ALISON POULTON: That's important anyway. But the fear is that if you've got a significant problem that you're treating, so if a child is having a lot of trouble functioning at school or with their friends and the decision is made to treat, it is important to give a dose that's high enough to give that child the maximum benefit. But of course you don't want to give more medication than they need because of course the higher the dose, the more the effect.

    So it's really important to keep in mind what's the benefits for that child and balance that against the disadvantages.

    But I suppose on the positive side, once you stop medication the appetite increases, they eat more and they have catch-up growth.

    TIMOTHY MCDONALD: So this is a problem that ultimately resolves itself?

    ALISON POULTON: Well, that's what we believe. I mean this cohort of children that we are studying, they haven't yet reached their adult height and I don't have data of my own on this. But other studies have suggested that men who are treated for ADHD in childhood end up a comparable height to their brothers and fathers.

    The best evidence we have is that it doesn't have an effect on adult height but it probably takes them a bit longer to reach there.

    TONY EASTLEY: Dr Alison Poulton from the University of Sydney; Timothy McDonald our reporter there.

Comments

  1. SpatialReason
    I know this may seem ridiculous, but I have observed this passively with people. I noticed that the people I have met that were forced onto these medications at a severely young age are, in fact, quite differently developed in their mid-20s. It also seems that their growth, physically and emotionally, were inhibited by the medications.

    If I am thinking correctly, aren't there medical journals indicating hormone inhibiting properties of many stimulants? I thought I have seen something regarding this sort of information. Of course, in the adult years, this seems less of an issue if you start the medications after puberty has had its hand at developing a person, but to inhibit growth hormones at a young age, it'd be a profound effect many years down the road.

    I am not wanting to offend anyone stuck on the medications as younger children, but does anyone have the same view when talking to someone who has been on ADD meds most of their life and noticing their emotional responses and body development? They seem to have regressed both in the physical sense and emotional sense. I know some who have developed extremely severe psychological problems such as anxiety and the inability to cope with life situations. I'd be willing to wager it had something to do with the medications. I know if I were to be on stimulants most of my life... I'd probably be a high strung individual... Not to mention that the folks who willfully go off the medications later in life to effectively "be who they were meant to be" find themselves even more unable to adjust, cope, and grow.

    I was one of the misdiagnosed children early on. Thankfully there were good events that proved the diagnosis wrong and I was shown to be normal with regards to attention span; I just didn't give a damn about doing homework or being involved in the classroom (being as they were teaching stuff that was already apparent and learned). Can I get an amen? Apparently that's enough to diagnose me at the time and get me a script for Ritalin. Rather ridiculous you know? Now I realized I was just lackadaisical in school, and my strange outward nature was a product of the autism spectrum. After making myself want to achieve things, both of these apparent issues were a non-issue. Medication can enhance your life, but it never fixes the problems. It is a tool to harness growth if metered right. I won't get started on doctors overdiagnosing/misdiagnosing certain conditions, but this is the product of that. We have a generation of stimulant abusers who don't even know they are doing just that... :\

    This whole ADD generation needs to come to an end. I think a good percentage of kids diagnosed are just parents/school-officials looking for an answer that is an entirely wrong solution to a kid's problem. Good guidance, helping achieve focus, and giving certain usable skills to help concentration is, in fact, a much better solution to the medication in my opinion. Some kids do need it as they are truly attention-deficit or hyperactive, but that does not mean they can't learn to harness their "inability" for the positive. I've watched a kid with severe ADHD with zero medications to boot become a terrific high end restaurant waiter. There is nothing better than someone who is "bouncing around" without focus to fill your water up every few minutes. :)
  2. Isodimorphism
    This reply is a bit late, but...

    Now that I think about it, I've noticed the same thing as SpatialReason. There were a few boys in my school who took ritalin for ADHD, and now that I think about it, most of them were very short. About 165cm on average; roughly 15cm shorter than most young British males.

    And the most interesting thing is that they didn't have the same build or proportions that most shorter men have. They weren't stocky or short-limbed; they were just smaller than average boys and looked a few years younger than their actual age. Obviously, this is just anecdotal evidence, but my experience fits with this study and with the above poster's experience.
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