Are ADHD Drugs Safe for Your Child?
If your child has started a medication regimen for ADHD, it is very important that you carefully monitor him or her for possible side effects. The side effects of drugs used for the treatment of ADHD can be serious, and should be dealt with immediately if they occur.
One thing to note: while you may have heard that the stimulant drugs used to treat ADHD in children are associated with a heightened risk of suicide, these claims have not yet been confirmed by researchers and are reliant solely on unproven anecdotal evidence.
Side Effects of Stimulant Drugs
Methylphenidate and amphetamines are the two most commonly prescribed stimulants in the treatment of ADHD. The side effects these drugs can cause are similar, and include common, less common and rare adverse effects.
Common side effects of these drugs include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Anxiety or a feeling of nervousness
- Euphoria (feeling happy) or dysphoria (feeling of dread)
- Dry mouth
- Dilation of the pupils
Less common side effects of ADHD stimulants include:
- Changes in pulse or blood pressure (these can either rise or fall)
- Various forms of physical hypersensitivity, including skin rashes, dermatitis and fever
- Lethargy and irritability
- Elevated heart rate at rest
- Chest pain
Rare side effects of ADHD stimulants include:
- Stunted growth
- Hair loss
- The development of an uncontrollable tic
- Heart palpitations
- Manic behavior
- Heart arrhythmia
There are other side effects which can occur with long-term stimulant therapy. These include a condition known as “treatment emergent psychosis,” in which the patient develops a serious mental illness. However, it is important to note that this side effect is extremely rare, and typically only occurs if the patient has routinely taken very high doses of stimulant drugs. It is extremely important not to exceed the recommended daily dosage of any ADHD stimulant.
All side effects, even mild side effects, should be reported to your child’s doctor.
Side Effects of Other ADHD Drugs
Some patients respond better to selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) or antidepressants. The side effects of these drugs can include:
- SNRIs: The possible side effects of SNRIs include upset stomach, dizziness, headache, fatigue, mild elevations in pulse or blood pressure, and urinary retention. Decreased sex drive can also occur, but this is usually only seen in adult patients.
- Antidepressants: Sweating, abdominal pain, changes in pulse or heart rate, muscle weakness, dizziness, mild anxiety, rashes and nausea may occur with the use of antidepressant drugs for ADHD treatment.
Both desirable and adverse effects of these drugs can take longer to manifest. It is equally important to pay close attention to the way your child responds to his or her ADHD medication, and to tell your child’s doctor about all side effects, even if they seem mild or unproblematic.