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Are Medications Safe? What are the dangers of stimulants? Are they addictive? Will they turn me into an addict? Will they fry my brain? Increase the risk of addiction? Lead to illegal drugs? How safe are they? Really? (Hint, millions of people take them every day. And not because they have to, because they make a difference.)
Are Medications Safe
DR HALLOWELL: What’s unfortunate about the medications that we use to treat ADD is people don’t realize how safe they are. It’s a real failure of public education. The fact is stimulant medication has been in use to treat what we now call ADD since 1937. Nothing lasts that long in the realm of pharmacology unless it is both safe and effective.
DR. KURTZ: We often get asked how safe is Ritalin or any of the other approved medications, so Ritalin just being one of the stimulants. And there is now 70 years of history; 1937 Dr. Bradley accidentally discovered the role of this kind of medicine in helping these kinds of kids. And there is no study that shows any long-term negative effects of short or long-term treatment with these medicines.
UMESH JAIN: These aren’t new medications. The long-acting versions may be new technologies of delivery, but they use the same medications. So if you ask me the question how will this kid be 20 years from now after he takes the medication if he has to take it for 20 years, I can tell you. I actually have data looking at the long-term treatment of this individual, and it’s okay. There’s nothing that’s going to happen that’s going to be a risk to this person
DR Kurtz: The outcome studies on adults unfortunately don’t carefully break down and couldn’t carefully break down people who got no treatment, a little bit of treatment and long-term treatment, because in all of those studies when they were done over the past few decades, they didn’t ever involve more than 14 months of treatment. The longest — the larger treatment study was only 14 months of treatment.
UMESH JAIN: ADHD medications, of all the medications we have in medicine, frankly, are medications that have been around for a long, long time and people should know that they are relatively safe. Now, yes, they are controlled substances, psychostimulants are. There are non-stimulants medications which we also use. The fact is is that their risk of abuse is not within the ADHD individual. Their risk of abuse are for people who don’t have ADHD who are looking for some high from them, a wrong use of the medication.
DR HALLOWELL: And yet we fear the stimulant, oh, these dangerous drugs and our good old friend aspirin we sell over the counter. Now I’m not saying stimulants are — are — are without risk. Sure if you snort them, that’s dangerous. If you grind them up and inject them, that’s dangerous. But if you grind up and inject a watermelon seed that’s dangerous too. Given parameters of responsible usage, under the supervision of a doctor who knows what he or she is doing, these medications are extraordinarily safe.
DR Kurtz: Researchers who image brains and look at biology, including some of the folks here at the NYU Child Study Center, have looked and seen no differences in brains as a function of being on stimulants for any length of time, whether it’s short, medium or long term.