ADHD Medications Appear Safe, Genetically Speaking

Adderall, Ritalin and other ADHD medications do not appear to cause genetic damage

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) According to a new study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), medications for attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) do not appear to cause genetic damage.

The study finds that therapeutic dosages of common stimulant medications such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (amphetamine) do not appear to cause cytogenetic (chromosomal) damage in humans. Scientists looked at cytogenetic damage in white blood cells of 63 children enrolled in the study, ages 6 to 12, and found no changes after three months of medication treatment.

Researchers cautioned the study should not serve as final word as to the medications' safety and urged more research and close monitoring of children who take the drugs for extended periods.

Kristine L. Witt, MSc, a genetic toxicologist at NIEHS and co-author on the study, said the study is good news for parents, as the results indicate methylphenidate- and amphetamine-based products "do not induce cytogenetic damage in children."

ADHD is the most common behavioral diagnosis in US children and is characterized by attention problems, impulsivity and hyperactivity. ADHD has been diagnosed in about 3 percent to 5 percent of all US children, though some studies suggest the actual figure of those suffering with the disorder to be between 7 percent to 12 percent.

The study was funded through the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), both of which are parts of NIH.

dailyRx.com medical editor Dr. Joseph Madia pointed out that, "Although the study showed safety in regards to cytogenetic changes over a three month period, I would agree with the researchers that more research would be beneficial, and encourage studies to be done over longer periods than three months."

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 17, 2011
Last Updated:
October 4, 2012