Is this a case of 20/20 hindsight, rose-colored glasses--or perception equals reality? New data from a big federal study of ADHD meds appears to show that long-term use of the drugs isn't very helpful, and may even be harmful. This, after initial results from the study--reported back in 1999--overwhelmingly supported drug therapy as a better treatment option than talk therapy or routine medical care alone.
The story isn't just that the drugs' advantages don't appear to hold up over time. It's also that, when this less flattering data came to light in 2007, some researchers tried to downplay it. And rather than reporting that the children on meds long-term were shorter and lighter than those who weren't on meds, a press release said children not using meds "grew somewhat larger."
The study continued, and the data continued to show smaller and smaller differences between the behavior of medicated and non-medicated children. The latest data confirm that there are "no long-term differences between children who were continuously medicated and those who were never medicated," the Washington Post reports, citing the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Meanwhile, the number of scrips for ADHD meds grew to 39.5 million last year from 28.3 million in 2004.
"The stance the group took in the first paper was so strong that the people are embarrassed to say they were wrong and we led the whole field astray," William Pelham, of the State University of New York at Buffalo, told the Post. "If 5 percent of families in the country are giving a medication to their children, and they don't realize it does not have long-term benefits but might have long-term risks, why should they not be told?"
- read the Post article