Study Finds Long-Term Use of ADHD Medications Increase Heart Disease Risks

Children and adults are being prescribed ADHD medications at increasing rates and for extended periods of time, which could result in greater long-term risks of heart disease side effects, according to new research.

New research has found that using attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications can increase the heart disease risks among both children and adults.

In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry on November 22, researchers found that the longer a person uses ADHD medications, the greater the risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and arterial disease.

The findings indicate a notable increase in heart disease side effects among individuals who have been on ADHD medication for over five years. Specifically, ADHD medication use for over five years increased the risk of heart disease by 23% when compared to those who have never used such medications.

ADHD Medication Increases Cardiovascular Risks

In this new report, researchers from Sweden conducted a case-controlled study of more than 278,000 participants in Sweden ages 6 to 64 years who were diagnosed with ADHD or were prescribed ADHD medication from 2007 to 2020. The study pulled data from the Swedish National Inpatient Register and the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register to find ADHD and cardiovascular disease diagnoses and ADHD medication prescription dispensation.

Researchers focused on various cardiovascular disease diagnoses, including ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, hypertension, heart failure, heart arrhythmias, thromboembolic disease, arterial disease, and other forms of heart disease.

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According to the findings, a total of 10,388 participants were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, in which the risk increased the longer a patient used ADHD medication. The greatest risk for cardiovascular disease identified was in individuals who used the medication for 5 years or more.

The risk of hypertension also increased with the use of ADHD medication between three and five years, with the greatest risk being among those using the drugs longer than 5 years. The risk was nearly twice that of those who didn’t use ADHD medications. Similarly, the risk of suffering arterial disease increased at the 3 to 5 year mark but was greater among those who used the drugs for 5 years.

The study found that for each year of ADHD medication use, a person faced a 4% increased risk of having cardiovascular disease, with the risk being the greatest during the first three years of cumulative use.

“These findings highlight the importance of carefully weighing potential benefits and risks when making treatment decisions about long-term ADHD medication use,” wrote study authors. “Clinicians should regularly and consistently monitor cardiovascular signs and symptoms throughout the course of treatment.”

ADHD Medications Are Commonly Used Long Term

Over the past few decades, research has revealed that children and adults are being prescribed ADHD medications such as Adderall and Ritalin in increasing numbers, and for long periods of time.

According to another recent study published in the journal The Lancet on November 27, researchers indicate roughly 50 to 60% of children will use ADHD medication for five years or longer, and about 30 to 40% of teens will also use the medications for more than five years.

The study examined ADHD medication discontinuation among more than 1.2 million participants ages 8 years to 21 years across eight countries, including Australia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the UK, and the U.S., from 2010 to 2020.

While researchers did identify that more than half of children, about half of teens, and more than one-third of adults will discontinue taking ADHD medication within the first year of being prescribed the drug, the study found most patients, both adolescents and adults, will begin taking the drug again later again in life for more than five years.

Although ADHD medications are important for helping symptoms of impulsiveness, excessive physical movement, anxiety, aggression, and forgetfulness, researchers stated it is important for doctors to discuss both the benefits and the risks of using ADHD medications, especially for those at increased risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease.

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