According to the results of a study conducted by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina, drugs prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) do not have any long term impacts on the brain.
According to the NHS, five percent of school aged children meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD in the UK. ADHD symptoms including troubles making and retrieving memories, focusing on one task and a distinct difficulty inhibiting inappropriate behaviours and speech.
Figures have revealed that the prescription of stimulant drugs such as Ritalin chemically known as methylphenidate hydrochloride is on the increase. In England alone 158,000 children were prescribed the drug in 1999 by 2010 661,463 children were receiving the drug treatment.
Due to the fact that such medications are relatively new the long term impact on a child’s mental and physical health and development is largely unknown. Discrepancies lie however between the side effects reported by drug companies making the medication and the side effects reported in studies based on patient reports.
This latest research published in the journal Neuro-psychopharmacology, 16 non-human primates who were aged equivalent to 6-to 10-year-old humans were assigned to either the control group who were given no medication or a group that were given therapeutic-level doses of a form of Ritalin. The primates were examined over the course of a year (equivalent to four human years) to establish the impact of the medication on brain chemistry and structure as well as examining the impact on physical growth.
It was concluded that there was no long-lasting impact on the neurochemistry of the brain, with no changes on the structure of the developing brain. These results are promising as they were replicated by a sister research study running simultaneously with older primates.
It remains to be questioned whether ethically, drugging children at a young age should be the most accepted therapy.