Ask the Experts

How Safe Are Stimulants?

“I’ve been taking ADHD medication for a decade. Everyone keeps telling me stimulants are safe, but have there been any long-term studies of people who have been taking a stimulant for decades?”

The two most commonly used stimulant medications have been on the market for a long time — amphetamine for more than 100 years, methylphenidate for 75 years. We know more about them than most medications used these days. There have been studies involving children and stimulants that have run for more than 20 years (the Milwaukee Study and the MTA study). The longest study involved people who had a sleep disorder called narcolepsy. This group took stimulant medications every day for their entire lives without reporting a problem.

Stimulants are approved by the FDA for use in pregnancy (Category C) and for children as young as three years of age. The three studies funded by the FDA that looked at cardiovascular safety in over 3 million children, adolescents, and adults found no increased cardiovascular risk while taking stimulants for ADHD.