How do ADHD Medications affect Bone Density in Kids?


ADHD standing for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a significant disease among children as 6.4 million children in the USA were diagnosed with it in 2011, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over 50% were detected to use some form of medicine to treat the disorder and have lower bone mineral density in the femur, femoral neck, and lumbar spine (or lower back).

This is considered a particularly high proportion, especially when compared with the number of kids who get ADHD but not take any medicine.

A recent research conducted by Dr. Jessica Rivera, an orthopaedic surgeon with the US Army Institute of Surgical Research indicated that kids on medications used to treat ADHD may have lower bone density in the hip and lumbar spine than their peers not on the medicines.

The thing is the result of this study only showed that there is a link between the ADHD medications and the bone density in kids using these medicines including stimulants as Ritalin or Adderall and nonstimulants like Strattera.

There could be some answers for the association, but it is not enough to make a conclusion that the medications themselves could cause to children’s bone diseases, such as Osteoporosis. The findings are likely to imply a possibility of long-term risk of poor bone health for young people taking ADHD medications.

Dr. Rivera still pointed out that it is possible that ADHD medications may directly affect bone density in children since they act on the sympathetic nervous system. She also warned physicians that they should be aware of the potential threats of ADHD medications on growing bones and consider to implement nutritional counseling or other preventive measures, because most skeletal growth happens by the age of 20.

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As Dr. Rivera said, this kind of research only raises questions for further fact-finding. “I’m in no way saying that kids shouldn’t be on these medications,” said Dr. Rivera. “This is an early study, and it’s not something that should change practice,” she emphasized.

“The researchers can’t attribute the difference in bone mineral density to the medications, specifically,” agreed Dr. Eric Hollander, a child psychiatrist directing the autism andd obsessive-compulsive spectrum program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “I would not suggest routine screening of children’s bone mineral density based on this.”

The study was carried out on more than 5,300 U.S. children ages from 8 to 17, who were part of a government health survey.



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