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Pregnancy Use of ADHD Drugs Increases Risk Of Newborn Health Problems: Study

Women who take attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs during pregnancy may be more likely to give birth to a child with central nervous system problems and other disorders, according to the findings of new research. 

In a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics on December 6, researchers from Sweden found a link between the pregnancy use of ADHD drugs and neonatal complications. The most common problems involved central nervous system disorders, like seizures.

Researchers looked at nearly 1 million single births in Sweden from 2006 through 2014, examining data on prescription drug use, deliveries, and the health of newborn infants from the Swedish Medical Birth Register, the Prescribed Drug Register, and the Swedish Neonatal Quality Register.

According to the findings, 0.2% of newborns were exposed to ADHD medications during pregnancy, and 1% had mothers who were treated before or after pregnancy. The findings indicate that those who were exposed to ADHD drugs during pregnancy had a 50% increased risk of admission to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), when compared to other newborns.

The findings also suggest that there was a nearly doubled risk of central nervous system-related disorders, and a were 30% more likely to be born preterm.

The study found no link between pregnancy use of ADHD drugs and congenital malformations or death.

“Treatment with ADHD medication during pregnancy was associated with a higher risk for neonatal morbidity, especially central nervous system-related disorders such as seizures,” the researchers concluded. “Because of large differences in background characteristics between treated women and controls, it is uncertain to what extent this can be explained by the ADHD medication per se.”

ADHD Drug Overuse Concerns

The study comes amid increasing concerns over the perceived overprescribing of ADHD drugs.

About 15% of all high school-age children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD, but some experts say that number should be closer to 5%.

One early advocate of stimulate treatment for children with ADHD, Dr. Keith Conners of Duke University, said that the rate of children now being diagnosed with ADHD and placed on drug treatments is “preposterous” and called ADHD an epidemic manufactured by drug companies.

Conners and others say that the inflated diagnoses and prescriptions are the result of a 20 year effort by the pharmaceutical industry to cash in on concerned parents hoping that poor grades and typical childhood behavior can be cured with drugs.

While some manufacturers paid off doctors to speak on their drugs behalf, others have gone as far as releasing comic books encouraging children to take medication to address ADHD. At some point since 2000, Conners noted that the FDA has cited every major ADHD drug manufacturer for false and misleading advertising about their ADHD drugs.

Those efforts led to $9 billion in sales for the ADHD drug industry in 2012, and 3.5 million children using ADHD medications.

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