The stimulant known as Ritalin has pluses and minuses in preschoolers receiving the drug for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to the first large, long-term study of the drug’s effect in such youngsters.
In many cases, low doses of the medication did quell ADHD symptoms in 3-to-5-year-olds. However, preschoolers more often developed stimulant-related side effects, including irritability, insomnia, and weight loss, than older children with ADHD have in prior studies.
Preschoolers with ADHD also experienced slowed growth rates during the year after starting stimulant treatment. Specifically by the end of the 70-week study, these children were one-half inch shorter in height and weighed 3 pounds less than expected.
ADHD affects about 2% of 2-to4-year-olds. Symptoms include an inability to concentrate on tasks, restlessness, and extreme disorganization and forgetfulness. This new study emphasizes the importance of limiting the use of Ritalin. There are very effective holistic treatments for ADHD including homeopathy and dietary changes. Stimulants like Ritalin with their adverse side effects should be the treatment of last resort.
Terry Pfau, DO, HMD