A new study suggests that children and teens who take stimulants like Ritalin for ADHD have an increased risk for sudden cardiac death, but the FDA says the study has major limitations and should not change the way the drugs are used.
There have long been concerns that the stimulants used to treat ADHD may increase the risk for sudden death in children with undiagnosed heart conditions.
The new research finds corroborating evidence for concern, although all agree that the risk of sudden cardiac death is very small.
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ADHD Stimulants and Sudden Cardiac Death
Researchers collected data on stimulant use among 564 children and teenagers who died unexpectedly of unknown causes and an equal number who died as passengers in auto accidents. Many of the unexplained deaths were later attributed to previously undiagnosed cardiac arrhythmias.
They concluded that the odds of using stimulant medication were six to seven times greater among the children who died suddenly of unexplained causes than among those who died in car crashes.
Ten children who died of unknown causes (just under 2%) took stimulants, compared to two children (0.4%) who died in auto accidents.