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ADHD Medication Slows Boys’ Growth

By Stephen Luntz

Long-term medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) reduces the growth rates of 14–16-year-old boys.

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Long-term medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) reduces the growth rates of 14–16-year-old boys, says Dr Alison Poulton of the University of Sydney’s Nepean Clinical School in a paper published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Poulton compared a group of boys treated for ADHD for at least 3 years and found that, once they had reached their early teens, they were significantly shorter than their peers. Moreover, there was a correlation between dosage and growth rate.

While she acknowledges it is possible the condition, rather than the medication, is the reason the treated boys were relatively short, Poulton says the dosage effect makes this unlikely. She adds: “I can’t think of a way to demonstrate this decisively other than to give some boys a placebo for at least 3 years, but it would be unethical to deny an effective treatment for this long and parents would never agree to randomisation determining their child’s long-term treatment”.

Poulton has previously shown that children grow more slowly and lose weight when first put on ADHD medication. Yet puzzlingly, the heights of 12–14-year-olds were not statistically significantly different from the control group. Poulton says she is “not sure about the precise hormonal mechanisms” but notes that the boys taking medication appeared to be experiencing delays in later stages of...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.