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Monday, April 05, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

ADHD drugs tied to growth delays, researchers find

By The Associated Press

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CHICAGO — New research bolsters evidence that stimulants like Ritalin used for attention-deficit problems may stunt children's growth, but it does not address whether the effect is permanent.

Children who took stimulants during the two-year study grew more than a half-inch less and gained more than 8 pounds less than those who weren't medicated.

The research involved 540 youngsters with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), who were age 7 to 9 at the outset of the study and were randomly assigned common treatments that included medication, behavior management and a combination of the two.

Girls generally reach their final height around 16, boys around 18. For that reason, it's too soon to tell the ultimate outcome of the growth delays, the researchers said.

American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines that recommend treating ADHD with stimulants and behavior therapy say evidence collected by following youngsters into adulthood indicates the drugs don't cause any significant height reduction.

Weight loss, however, is a known potential side effect from long-term stimulant use.

The study, led by University of California, Berkeley researcher Stephen Hinshaw, is in the April issue of Pediatrics.

Initial results after 14 months of follow-up, published in 1999, showed that drugs alone or used with behavior therapy were the most effective treatment.

The 24-month follow-up found that drugs with or without behavior therapy remained superior, though the effect lessened somewhat over time.

ADHD is the most common neurobehavioral disorder in childhood.


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