Follow-Up of Major Study Reports on ADHD Medication Effectiveness and Impact on Growth

Researchers have found that ADHD medication alone is not as effective after 36 months and confirmed that stimulant medications slow growth in children with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD), among other findings.

Tuesday August 14th - 11:12am

Three years into the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children With ADHD (MTA), researchers have found that medication does not always remain the most effective treatment for children with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD). They have also confirmed, as long believed, that stimulant medications do impact a child's growth.

The MTA is the largest ADHD treatment study ever conducted. At the study's inception, 579 children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD), ages seven to nine, were randomly assigned to one of four different courses for managing ADHD symptoms: medication only, intensive behavioral therapy, combined medication and behavioral treatment, or standard community care (the treatment arrangments parents pursued on their own). At 14 and 24 months, children treated with medication only or with the combined approach showed significantly greater improvement in ADHD symptoms than children in the behavioral therapy only or community care groups.

At the 36-month follow-up, with 485 of the original participants, the four treatment groups no longer differed significantly. Half of the children treated with medication or the combined approach maintained their immediate positive response and one third improved gradually, but for 14 percent of the children who had initially responded well, the effectiveness wore off by the three-year mark.

Findings also confirmed that children treated with stimulant medications lagged behind their peers in growth, by about 3/4 of an inch and six pounds. The researchers also found that the children with attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD) remained at a higher risk for delinquent behavior (27 vs. 7 percent) and substance abuse (17 vs. 8 percent), despite treatment.

Findings were reported in four separate articles in the August 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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