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ADHD Drugs May Cause Sudden Cardiac Arrest

A new study finds that drugs used to treat ADHD like Ritalin may be linked to sudden cardiac arrest in children. Mental health experts say the research is not conclusive enough for parents to take their children off the medication completely, but the study identified 564 children and teenagers who died suddenly for unexplained reasons and had no structural heart defects.

Researchers also looked at 564 young people who died as passengers in car accidents and found that many of their deaths were later attributed to undiagnosed cardiac problems. The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the FDA, concluded that the odds of using a stimulant like Ritalin were six to seven times higher among children who died suddenly of unexplained causes than among those who died in auto accidents.

The study does not prove that Ritalin causes cardiac arrest, but it highlights the important of screening children and teens for heart problems before prescribing a stimulant, says Charlotte Armstrong, a NIHM spokesperson. She also stressed the need for more studies. “The bigger the numbers they can look at, the better,” she said.

Dr. Ramon Solhkhah, director of the Child and Family Institute of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital says that while medication is usually used to treat moderate to severe ADHD, some kids may benefit from a non-drug treatment.

“There are definitely some behavioral and lifestyle changes that could be beneficial," he said. "These include cognitive behavioral therapy, certain organizational skills, more individual attention in the classroom and life coaches who can get kids organized."

Many young people with ADHD can also benefit from chiropractic techniques, according to chiropractor Gerard Clum. "A number of case reports have been published with chiropractic care and there has been a positive resolution in the severity of symptoms," he said.

Another doctor recommends that in addition to behavioral modification, kids should have their diet and nutrition monitored. “ADHD medication can help with the symptoms,” said Dr. Robert Melillo, “but there are a lot of alternatives out there that address the underlying problem.”

Posted on June 19th, 2009

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