New study shows early ritalin may cause long-term effects on the brain

San Juan, Puerto Rico, December 12, 2004 A new study conducted in rats by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School suggests that the misdiagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) combined with prescription drug use in children may lead to a higher risk of developing depressive symptoms in adulthood.

This work, released at the annual American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) conference in Puerto Rico, is among the first to examine the effects of early Ritalin exposure in rats on behavior and brain function during the later periods of life.

"Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder can be a serious medical problem for children and their parents," says lead researcher William Carlezon, Ph.D., director of McLean Hospital's Behavioral Genetics Laboratory and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "While Ritalin is an effective medication that improves the quality of life for many children with ADHD, accurately diagnosing and identifying the correct treatment regimen for the disorder is essential, especially when considering health effects that can last through adulthood."

Ritalin is a generic medication prescribed for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that consists of a persistent pattern of abnormally high level of activity, impulsivity, and/or inattention. Usually diagnosed in children of preschool or elementary school age, ADHD has been estimated to affect 3 to 12 percent of children and is twice as common among boys. Children with ADHD are also likely to have other disorders, such as a learning disability, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, depression, or anxiety.

Because most children show some of these behaviors of inattention and hyperactivity at times, the diagnosis of ADHD is a complex process that should involve specialists. It is critical to determine whether a child's behavi

Contact: Jill Lobliner

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