Currently there are approximately 2.5 million children and 1.5 million adults taking stimulant medication. The two most popular meds are Ritalin and Concerta, with ADHD being the most common condition that they treat.
For those of you who may not know ADHD is short for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can best be characterized by a persistent pattern of impulsiveness and inattention. It is diagnosed twice as much in boys as it is in girls and a popular treatment method is to put the child on either Ritalin or Concerta.
After years of speculation and rare case reports, a study suggests that this stimulant medication may have played a role in a handful of cases of sudden, unexplained death in children and adolescents.
This is the first study to suggest that these stimulants may pose a risk to children, albeit a very remote one, without pre existing heart problems.
What these drugs do is cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. In the past this was thought to be no big deal to children, they may be starting to rethink that.
A study compared children who died unexpectedly vs. children who died in an auto accident. What they found was 1.8% of the children from the unexpected death group were on a stimulant drug. In the group of children who died from an auto accident, the number of children on that drug was 0.4%.
What the doctors are now recommending is two fold if your child is told they need to be put on a stimulant drug like Ritalin or Concerta:
- Please give your doctor a detailed family history; do not gloss over this. A ton of useful information comes out of these conversations. Please make sure you pay particular attention to heart attacks, strokes or any form of heart disease.
- Ask your doctor for an EKG for your child. A recent study of 1100 children found that 2% of those children screened had an abnormality.
In 2008, the American Heart Association recommended that doctors consider routine electrocardiograms before starting children with ADHD on stimulants or other psychotropic medications. These EKG’s may help to detect cardiac abnormalities that would increase a child’s vulnerability to sudden heart problems.
Shameless chiropractic plug. If you are considering putting your child on one of these drugs, please give chiropractic a shot first. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen children get helped by going to the chiropractor. I have teachers at school now who proactively seek parents out and tell them to get their children adjusted.
If you currently have a chiropractor, ask them if they will check your child. If you need help finding a chiropractor near you, shoot me an email and I will help you find someone.