Stimulant Medicines and Children

Sometimes the treatment regime includes stimulant medications that suppress impulsive, disruptive behavior. Medication is often recommended in severe cases where children have received so much negative feedback, they have poor self- esteem and problems in school and at home. Statistics show that 70 to 80 percent of hyperactive youngsters react favorably to treatment medications such as dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), pemoline (Cylert), and methylphenidate (Ritalin). At the NIH day hospital program, we have been studying a whole host of medications in an effort to find alternative drugs. There are other stimulant medications on the market, but none has been found to be as safe and effective as the three commonly used.

In a pioneering study conducted at the Clinical Center in the 1970s, a single one-time dose of dextroamphetamine was given to normal children to determine if stimulant medication affected them differently than ADHD children. We found no difference in the two groups. This is a relief to some parents and scientists who once thought that medical stimulants slow hyperactive children down below normal levels.

Experts agree that these medications should be used in moderation. In the past, however, some parents were only administering medication during school hours, which often led to good behavior at school and terrible, disruptive behavior at home. We recommend the consistent use of medications throughout the day to improve not only behavior, but also self-esteem.

Stimulant Research

Debunking the theory that stimulant medications contribute to drug use, a study found that children treated with stimulants are not likely to have a chemical dependency later in life. In yet another study, NIH researchers hoping to find a biological indicator for the disorder discovered that hyperactive children have less of a breakdown compound of norepinephrine called MHPG. Scientists thought stimulant medication would normalize levels of MHPG, but in fact, it further decreased it .

Foods and ADHD

In other research, we have been unable to prove that stimulants improve academic achievement in hyperactive children, although several studies indicate otherwise.

Researchers have found that children's behaviors generally do not worsen when certain food additives are consumed . Of 20 studies, only study all aspects of the brain, from neurological disorders to psychiatric problems. By injecting deoxyglucose (a form of sugar) intravenously into the bloodstream as well as very small amounts of radioactivity, it is possible to make a photograph of the brain and measure brain metabolism. This procedure can be performed on adults and teens with minimal risk, but is not recommended for young children.

( Back , Next )
[Return to the Table of Contents]
[NIH Consumer Health Information Page]

Balance Check's Library of ADD/ADHD Books
Balance Check's Five Essential ADD/ADHD Books List
Balance Check's ADD Home Page

© 1998 Charles K. Kenyon (HTML)