ADHD Stimulant Medication and ER Visits

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ADHD Stimulant Medication and ER Visits for Heart Problems in Children

ADHD stimulant medication may cause heart problems
Are the risks of heart problems greater in children who are prescribed stimulant medications for ADHD than for children who are not taking such medications? The University of Florida researched this question and published their results in the journal Pediatrics in December, 2007.

What they found was that the use of stimulant medication for ADHD in children and teenagers may be the cause for an increased number of emergency room visits, or visits to the doctor’s office, because of cardiac symptoms such as a racing heart or increased blood pressure. But the study also found that deaths, or serious heart complications, are rare.

The researchers looked at the records of over 50,000 children and teenagers who had ADHD, and were treated with stimulants such as Ritalin and other Methylphenidate compounds, Dexedrine, and Adderall. Then they compared the findings from this group to a database of over 2 million children and teenagers to see if there were any differences.

What they found was the children and teenagers treated with stimulants for ADHD were about 20 percent more likely to have to go to a doctor’s office or emergency room with cardiac symptoms than children and teens that were not taking stimulant medications. In other words, for every 100 children or teens who have to go to the ER or doctor's office for scary heart symptoms, there are 120 children or teens who take stimulant medication who have to go to the ER.

However, rates of death or admissions to a hospital were no different that the rates among those not being treated with stimulant medications.

ADHD Medication and FDA Warnings

There is an ongoing controversy within various committees in the FDA about whether stimulant medications should carry a “black box” warning label. In 2006 the FDA added the “black box” warning to the labels of ADHD medications warning of possible heart risks from the medications. The warnings on the label included possible sudden death in patients who have heart problems or heart defects, stroke and heart attack in adults, and increased heart rates and increased blood pressure.

The authors note that they do not know the long-term implications of increased heart rate and blood pressure in children and teens treated with stimulant medications. They also noted that about 25 percent of children and teens treated with stimulants were also prescribed either an antidepressant medication or an antipsychotic medication, which can also impact the heart and blood pressure.

Read more about the study from the University of Florida.

Contrary Studies to Consider

ADHD Meds Do Not Increase Heart Risks: Study // Pharmalot


The various drugs used to combat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, do not increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes or sudden death, according to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that ... as they describe their motivation for conducting their study as being based in part on a previous study showing a 20-21% increase in cardiac ER and physician office visits for youth on stimulants, but their study find a 640% increase in ...

NIMH · Continued Use of Stimulants for ADHD Likely Does Not ...


Chronic use of stimulant medication to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children does not appear to increase risk for high blood pressure over the long term, but it may have modest effects on heart rate, according to ...

This book section: ADHD Medication Issues and Research

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., MFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Tehachapi, CA who has been a counselor to children, teens, and adults helping them to overcome ADHD, find relief for depression or anxiety, and solve other problems in life since 1989. He served on the medical advisory board to the company that makes Attend and Extress from 1997 through 2011, and he is the Editor of the ADHD Information Library online resource at His weekly ADHD Newsletter goes out to 9,500 families. Visit his website at for more information on achieving greater health, personal growth, Christ-centered spirituality, stress management, parenting skills, ADHD, working out the stresses of being a care-giver to elderly parents and also being a parent to teenagers, or finding greater meaning in retirement years, Dr. Cowan can be a valuable resource to you.

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Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., MFT
27400 Oakflat Dr.
Tehachapi, CA 93561
(661) 972-5953

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