Study: ADHD drugs may create learning impairment in children

Published on March 17, 2015, by Matthew Sharp


Study: ADHD drugs may create learning impairment in children

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a common childhood condition that can last into adulthood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 11 percent of children between 4 and 17 years old have been diagnosed and may be taking ADHD drugs. As a pharmaceutical attorney in Reno may have seen, however, the medication does not come without its risks. Parents in Nevada and across the country may turn to these drugs in the hopes that they will help children focus in school, but a recent study reveals that the opposite may be true.

Why drugs are prescribed

The most commonly prescribed medications to treat ADHD include Adderall and Ritalin. The drugs are supposed to treat the symptoms associated with the disorder, such as the following:

  • Fidgeting
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Having difficulty getting along with peers
  • Talking too much
  • An inability to focus

As the CDC notes, roughly half of children who are diagnosed with ADHD also have other behavioral disorders, which can affect the child’s development and performance in school. Stimulants, like Adderall and Ritalin, are allegedly effective in as many as 80 percent of children, according to the CDC. As a pharmaceutical attorney in Reno would know, these medications will affect children differently and could even prove harmful.

Unintended consequences

Medications intended to treat ADHD aim to calm children so they can focus in class. However, researchers from Cornell University, Princeton University and the University of Toronto found that the drugs actually lead to students performing worse in school. The study compared children who were taking ADHD drugs with their peers who were not taking medication. Researchers discovered that the medicated students were more likely to have to repeat a grade before finishing school. This phenomenon is a sign, according to the study’s authors, that the medicated children have an added learning impairment.

Psychologists have also noted other prescription drug risks associated with ADHD medications, such as stunted growth. These stimulants also have been linked to headaches, trouble sleeping, nausea and irritability.


A report from CBS News adds another layer to the ADHD medication problem: Neurologists have found that physicians are prescribing drugs to children who may not need them. According to the report, prescriptions climbed 46 percent between 2002 and 2012. Experts have warned that there is not enough evidence to support that these drugs are effective, nor that they are entirely safe. Instead, neurologists advise that physicians should talk about alternatives for children who are struggling in school, such as options for tutoring, an improved diet and better study habits.

Anyone with concerns regarding ADHD medications should consult with a pharmaceutical attorney in Reno.