Debate Over Drugs For ADHD Reignites; Long-Term Benefit For Children at Issue
By Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post
March 27, 2009
New data from a large federal study have reignited a debate over the effectiveness of long-term drug treatment of children with hyperactivity or attention-deficit disorder, and have drawn accusations that some members of the research team have sought to play down evidence that medications do little good beyond 24 months.
The initial 14-month analysis published in 1999 randomly assigned children to one of four treatment options and showed clearly that those treated with medication did much better than those who got only talk therapy or routine care. The drugs' manufacturers distributed thousands of reprints of the article to physicians at a time when diagnoses of ADHD were spiraling upward. Because children given drugs alone appeared to do about as well as those treated with both drugs and talk therapy, the study skewed treatment in the direction of medication.
In a second phase of the study, the researchers followed the children and compared how they fared, but researchers no longer randomly assigned them to the various treatment options, making this phase less scientifically rigorous.
In August 2007, the MTA researchers reported the first follow-up data, which by then no longer showed differences in behavior between children who were medicated and those who were not. But the data did show that children who took the drugs for 36 months were about an inch shorter and six pounds lighter than those who did not.
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(Question: If taking amphetamines can stunt the physical growth of your child's body, how much will it stunt the physical growth of your child's brain?)
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