Popular ADHD Drugs May Change the Structure of Children’s Brains

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common diagnosis among children in the United States. It is characterized by a lack of ability to focus and concentrate. Many children diagnosed with the condition are prescribed medication to control the symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 5.2%of American children take medication for ADHD. The drug Methylphenidate (MPH) is one of the most popular ADHD medications, and a new study warns parents that the drug may be affecting the brains of children who take it.

The Study

MPH is usually sold under the brands Ritalin or Concerta. It has shown to be effective in treating ADHD, but its effects on children’s brains were unknown. There hasn’t been enough research performed to determine the effect it had on the brains of children. Researchers from the University of Amsterdam set out to determine the effect the drug had on the white matter of children’s brains. White matter is the tissue in the brain that carries signals and is an important part of learning and overall brain function.

Thestudylooked at 50 boys, and 49 adult men all diagnosed with ADHD. None of the participants had taken MPH prior to the study. This was a crucial part of determining the effects of the drug on a developing brain. Study participants were divided into two groups. One group took MPH for 16 weeks, and the other group took a placebo. Before and one week after the trial, the participants underwent MRI scans that assessed their white matter levels.

The Results

The results of the study showed that MPH had different effects on the white matter of children versus that of adults. In adult men who took the drug and the children who did not take the drug, the white matter levels were unchanged. In children who took the drug, there was an increase in white matter readings.

The long-term implications of these findings are unclear. However, it is clear that MPH affects the development of brain structure. Researchers caution parents and doctors to make informed decisions when deciding to prescribe ADHD medication.

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