View Full Version : Concerned about long term effects of Ritalin


Hollandia
10-06-16, 01:06 PM
Hello All,

I am new to this forums so I'll give a brief introduction. I also realize that the concern from my topic title has been discussed before on this forum but I did use search and didn't find one about exactly my concerns.

Our son is 9 years old and diagnosed with ADHD in July 2016. We always knew he was much more active than most kids and had a very short attention span. It wasn't until last school year that his school grades started dropping because of his attention problems. The teacher urged us to seek help. Also he was being bullied a lot in school and at one point he told his teacher he hated school.

This was a shock to use because our son is always the most cheerful boy you can imagine. No matter how bad the situation is he always tries to see the positive. He is also extremely social.

As most parents would we were worried about starting medication but after doing our research we decided to try. His psychiatrist prescribed 10 mg of Ritalin which lasts 8 hours (slowly released).

The effects were far better than we could have ever imagined. His teachers noticed an instant difference, his concentration improved, his schoolwork was not only far better but his handwriting was also far neater etc.
He not only stopped getting bullied, even the biggest the bullies started playing with him! (turns out his hyperactivity was causing much irritation with his classmates). He is now excited to go to school again in the morning!!

For the rest he is still our son, no personality changes, no mood swings (happy as ever), no decrease in creativity etc. Just some loss in appetite (mostly breakfast and lunch).

Now for the concern: Of course every few months or so you read of new studies done around Ritalin. This time a dutch hospital did some studies with slightly worrying results. The medicine seems to work differently on adults than on children. Where the effects of Ritalin stops instantly on adults who quit the medicine, it turns out that scans still show increased activity in brain bloodflow in children even after one week of quiting. For people who can read Dutch here's the study: https://www.amc.nl/web/Het-AMC/Nieuws/Nieuwsoverzicht/Nieuws/Kinderhersenen-reageren-anders-op-Ritalin.htm

This made me search the internet again for other studies (bad idea). The comments below the news articles from people who used Ritalin really shocked me. There were a few people who said they used Ritalin as a child (about my son's age) who now, 10 - 15 years later, long after quitting the medicine, suffer from major depressions and other social issues (with no family history in this area). They say they truly feel this is a long term effect from taking Ritalin for the 5 - 10 year period as a child and it now ruined their life.

Stuff like this always makes me worry so much.. Am I doing the right thing? I can clearly see the benefit right now, but I could never forgive myself if it has an effect like this in the long run.

Are there other people here who used Ritalin as a child and are now older? What are your experiences?

sarahsweets
10-06-16, 03:27 PM
Do not pay attention to that stuff and only read peer-reviewed solid articles. One dutch study does not trump 50 years of research. Stimulants have been around for many years and the long term things that I pay attention to are that these drugs work and they turn peoples lives around. Adhd is a brain disorder, and medication has been proven to work and is considered a daily, long term solution.

Hollandia
10-06-16, 03:48 PM
Thanks for your reply sarahsweets. As far as I know the AMC University Hospital does perform peer reviewed studies and employs some internationally recognized scientists. However, this study was not my main concern.

My concern mostly revolved around some of the experiences I read about people ages 20 - 35 years old with major depression problems that they say is caused by Ritalin.

I do realize that mostly people who have negative experiences post their comments on the internet, just like with any other medication. I was just curious to see if there were people here who used Ritalin as a child who are now an adult to see what their experiences were.

Also can you point me to some studies done on the long term effects (10 - 20+ years) of Ritalin? it seems hard to find this without stumbling across nonsense pages on the internet.

sarahsweets
10-07-16, 06:19 AM
Thanks for your reply sarahsweets. As far as I know the AMC University Hospital does perform peer reviewed studies and employs some internationally recognized scientists. However, this study was not my main concern.

My concern mostly revolved around some of the experiences I read about people ages 20 - 35 years old with major depression problems that they say is caused by Ritalin.

I do realize that mostly people who have negative experiences post their comments on the internet, just like with any other medication. I was just curious to see if there were people here who used Ritalin as a child who are now an adult to see what their experiences were.

Also can you point me to some studies done on the long term effects (10 - 20+ years) of Ritalin? it seems hard to find this without stumbling across nonsense pages on the internet.


Im terrible at finding stuff like this but Namazu maybe could step in, shes a pro.
I can tell you that my son is 20 almost 21 and was diagnosed and started meds at age 4. Hes grown perfectly and almost a genius. I have taken stimulants for almost 15 years as well.

Caco3girl
10-07-16, 09:13 AM
I am a scientist so let me tell you that no self respecting scientist would include "personal opinions" in a legit medical journal article. There are going to be anomalous clusters in every experiment, that doesn't mean there is a pattern and it doesn't mean that it can be taken as gospel.

If I pulled together 1000 random people off the street and gave them a sugar pill and tracked them for the rest of their lives and 5 of them had heart attacks...can we blame my sugar pill for that, or can we say that 5 of them were always going to have heart attacks?

When you find a report that says they tracked a medication in adults 20 years later and they have isolated which part of the brain the drug compromised to CAUSE the depression to present 20 years later, please let me know. Taking a group of people who were on a medication as a child and reporting the personal opinion of some of the participants without medical proof of the hows and whys is just BAD science.

TRUE scientists don't report personal opinions. Even when presented with overwhelming "seeing is believing proof"...if they can't PROVE it they don't report it, or they report a theory. Does everyone realize that gravity is still technically a THEORY? In my opinion that article was likely offering evidence of an anomalous cluster within the experiment, but it was not reporting a direct link. According to google 6.7% of the US population is depressed....maybe some took Ritalin as a kid but maybe some were just always going to be depressed.

Lunacie
10-07-16, 09:34 AM
Um, lots of people with ADHD have comorbid depression and anxiety. Lots.

If those people are not medicated now and are dealing with ADHD impairments in their life, they certainly may feel depressed .

I have suffered with various levels of depression (including thoughts of suicide) for most of my adult life. I have NEVER taken Ritalin.


I wish I could read the study ... I haven't heard of a connection between ADHD and limited blood flow before.

I thought science was showing more of a problem in neuron connections between parts of the brain.

Little Missy
10-07-16, 09:43 AM
Frankly, I would be more worried about a nuclear power plant than Ritalin.

ToneTone
10-07-16, 01:10 PM
The effect of the meds on your son sound wonderful ... Sounds like he is doing well and that Ritalin has improved his attention and his social skills. I love that he's not being bullied so much!!!!

Can I make a suggestion: ... CELEBRATE! ... CELEBRATE THE WONDERFUL EFFECTS! .... You're a great parent for getting him treated.

As a previous poster said, people with ADHD also have high rates of depression and or anxiety. This is called "comorbidity." The research community isn't sure why this is ... the common sense view would be that ADHD is so debilitating that it can lead to depression out of frustration and failure. But the other view is that brains that have ADHD are brains that are also vulnerable to depression and anxiety. Probably there is a little of both. (There is a similar duality with stroke patients. My brother suffered a devastating stroke and he then got deeply depressed and the medical folks think there is an existential angle to post-stroke depression and a brain-damaged angle to the depression.)

I have ADHD and I'm treated for it ... and I also get treated for depression. I am betting that 99 percent of these responders you mention are people who are not being treated for ADHD (either with meds or non-meds!) ... and I would bet that they are not being treated for depression. They're flailing for an explanation and they think Ritalin caused their depression. Nuts. They most likely need to go get treated for depression, which they would have suffered Ritalin or no Ritalin.

There is a painful irony here: ADHD, if untreated, really makes it hard to take care of yourself and to think clearly and systematically. I can see that now that I'm treated.

If you must, share your concern with your son's prescribing doctor. Stimulants have been used for decades, and it's one of the category of medicines that the medical community seems quite confident about ... about stimulants not having major negative side effects.

Basically some of this research you're citing says, "we don't exactly know" the long-term impact of taking these meds. Keep in mind, we DO KNOW the short and long-term impact of school failure, self-rejection, social isolation and so on. Don't kid yourself into thinking your son's struggles were just minor. Getting bullied can be devastating.

Untreated ADHD can be so insidiously debilitating, because it affects every aspect our lives, from:

the ability to plan
to follow through on a plan
to reach our goals
to develop confidence
to develop a sense that we can shape our destinies
to strive steadily towards our goals
to avoid destructive behavior
make sensible decisions
get rest
read social cues
interact constructively with others
understand our own feelings
manage and regulate our feelings
avoid destructive impulsivity


BTW: there are many more medicines out there with a shorter history than stimulants like Ritalin. This is basically the challenge of humanity. Whenever there is a new invention or breakthrough, it takes a while to understand the full effects Just keep an eye on the research. But don't be freaked out by these anecdotal reports. There are just as many of us on this board who have good stories to tell, and look ... I was diagnosed only as an adult. And I can see how I certainly needed this help when I was younger.

Good luck ... and celebrate the wonderful changes you report!

Tone

Hollandia
10-07-16, 03:42 PM
Thanks everyone, your posts are all very helpful. I didn't think of the correlation between ADHD and depression without medicine or treatment.

@Lunacie the research from AMC was published for peer review and can be found in English here: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2538518

However as I said before, the results from this study were not immediately alarming and was not the main reason for my concern. It led me to look up other studies on the internet where I found the negative comments from people with depression.

And thanks ToneTone. The short term results are truly amazing. Sometimes our son comes home with schoolwork and we can't believe our son actually made this so good and neat. We are very thankful for this.

Lunacie
10-07-16, 05:09 PM
Thank you for the link.

This reminds me of something I read here some time back about the plasticity of kid's brains being receptive to changes.

Could be adult brains are not as receptive or perhaps it takes longer to achieve changes.

If we can improve adhd deficits in kids with a combination of meds and supportive therapy from parents and teachers and others, wouldn't we want to do that?

I've read many posts and stories about kids who take stimulant meds through grade and middle school and then stop when they reach high school.

They continue to do well until they get into college or a demanding job, then they go back to the doctor to ask for meds again.

So maybe the meds help the kids catch up with their peers for awhile, but then they find that they've fallen behind what is considered "typical."

I know the idea of giving kids these meds can be really scary but I do wonder if giving them to younger kids as soon as the diagnosis can be made would decrease that deficit in their brains so they never actually fall so far behind their peers.


Now I need to go read about the difference between blood flow and neuron connections in the brain and see if improved blood flow actually improves neuronal connection.

Hermus
10-07-16, 05:18 PM
Hello All,

I am new to this forums so I'll give a brief introduction. I also realize that the concern from my topic title has been discussed before on this forum but I did use search and didn't find one about exactly my concerns.

Our son is 9 years old and diagnosed with ADHD in July 2016. We always knew he was much more active than most kids and had a very short attention span. It wasn't until last school year that his school grades started dropping because of his attention problems. The teacher urged us to seek help. Also he was being bullied a lot in school and at one point he told his teacher he hated school.

This was a shock to use because our son is always the most cheerful boy you can imagine. No matter how bad the situation is he always tries to see the positive. He is also extremely social.

As most parents would we were worried about starting medication but after doing our research we decided to try. His psychiatrist prescribed 10 mg of Ritalin which lasts 8 hours (slowly released).

The effects were far better than we could have ever imagined. His teachers noticed an instant difference, his concentration improved, his schoolwork was not only far better but his handwriting was also far neater etc.
He not only stopped getting bullied, even the biggest the bullies started playing with him! (turns out his hyperactivity was causing much irritation with his classmates). He is now excited to go to school again in the morning!!

For the rest he is still our son, no personality changes, no mood swings (happy as ever), no decrease in creativity etc. Just some loss in appetite (mostly breakfast and lunch).

Now for the concern: Of course every few months or so you read of new studies done around Ritalin. This time a dutch hospital did some studies with slightly worrying results. The medicine seems to work differently on adults than on children. Where the effects of Ritalin stops instantly on adults who quit the medicine, it turns out that scans still show increased activity in brain bloodflow in children even after one week of quiting. For people who can read Dutch here's the study: https://www.amc.nl/web/Het-AMC/Nieuws/Nieuwsoverzicht/Nieuws/Kinderhersenen-reageren-anders-op-Ritalin.htm

This made me search the internet again for other studies (bad idea). The comments below the news articles from people who used Ritalin really shocked me. There were a few people who said they used Ritalin as a child (about my son's age) who now, 10 - 15 years later, long after quitting the medicine, suffer from major depressions and other social issues (with no family history in this area). They say they truly feel this is a long term effect from taking Ritalin for the 5 - 10 year period as a child and it now ruined their life.

Stuff like this always makes me worry so much.. Am I doing the right thing? I can clearly see the benefit right now, but I could never forgive myself if it has an effect like this in the long run.

Are there other people here who used Ritalin as a child and are now older? What are your experiences?

It is very normal that as a parent you are concerned about the long-term effects your child's medication has. Yet, a few points need to be addressed.

First, as others already said there is a high co-morbidity between ADHD and anxiety and depression. Most people who have had Ritalin as a child will have ADHD, so it's only logical that a lot of them suffer from anxiety and depression later in life. The stories people share below news articles in that sense are no proof for anything.

Second, the article only says something about the blood flow in the brains of children is different after being off Ritalin for one week. This would increase the functioning of the dopamine system. It says nothing about whether this is a positive or a negative effect on the long-term.

Third, to quote the article (normally this is an English language website, but since your concerns are based on an article in Dutch I will take the liberty to quote the Dutch text):

De onderzoekster stelt dat het een indirecte meting betrof, het aantal onderzochte personen klein is en dat de periode van vier maanden behandeling kort is. Veel patiënten krijgen jarenlang Ritalin. De studie wordt daarom voortgezet. “Dit eerste onderzoek leert dat medicijnen in kinderen andere uitwerkingen kunnen hebben dan in volwassenen, omdat de hersenen nog in ontwikkeling zijn”, aldus de onderzoeksters.
Reneman vindt niet dat artsen moeten stoppen met het voorschrijven aan kinderen.

So the research is based on (1) an indirect measurement (2) the number of experimental subjects is small (3) the period of four months of treatment is relatively short. 1 and 3 are side notes to the validity of the research, i.e. the extent to which it measures what it aims to measure. 2 decreases the reliability, i.e. the lower the number of test subjects, the higher the chance that effects that are found are based on coincidence. The only thing that can be concluded from this study is that further research is warranted.

Moreover, the article states that it is recommended that Ritalin will keep being prescribed to children who really have ADHD.

Thanks for your reply sarahsweets. As far as I know the AMC University Hospital does perform peer reviewed studies and employs some internationally recognized scientists. However, this study was not my main concern.

What Sarah is pointing out is that research is a cumulative effort. While one study can show interesting effects and place side notes by previous studies, to have an accurate understanding of some studied phenomenon it is necessary to look at the body of research as a whole.

My concern mostly revolved around some of the experiences I read about people ages 20 - 35 years old with major depression problems that they say is caused by Ritalin.

How do they know that Ritalin has been the cause of their depression? Has this been studied? The fact that people link two things doesn't mean that there is an actual correlation. In fact it is a common for humans to make a connection between two things that co-occur without a connection actually existing. Some experiments in classical conditioning illustrate this point perfectly.

For example in the famous Little Albert Experiment researchers let a baby boy play with a laboratory rat. At first he wasn't afraid of the rat. Yet, at the same time he played with the rat the researchers made a loud noise behind his back. Now Little Albert came to associate the rat with the loud noise (which was deemed unpleasant), which created a fear for the rat. While the loud noise and the rat weren't related, apparently in the mind of Little Albert now playing with the rat caused the noise. The same effect could be there with Ritalin and depression. People took Ritalin and got a depression. While they very well could be unrelated, this led those people to believe the Ritalin was the cause of the depression. Especially in a media culture that focuses on negative stories about medication this effect could be reinforced.

Lunacie
10-07-16, 05:21 PM
Yay Hermus! I meant to mention that the effects lasting for a week is not what I'd call long-term, but I forgot.

And if it's a good effect, wouldn't you want it to last a long time?

Hollandia
10-08-16, 05:00 AM
It's true Hermus, Correlation does not imply causation of course... but it's human nature to think it does!

Cyllya
10-08-16, 05:41 AM
Yeah, I didn't take ADHD meds until I was an adult, and some of the anecdotal alleged ill effects of stimulants are things that I got prior to starting the meds. That includes depression. (I have both a mood disorder AND natural sadness as a result of ADHD symptoms.) I also had initiation impairment, which is common in people who have ADHD, but it's not an official symptom of ADHD and mental health professionals will usually interpret it as depression. Lack of motivation (apathy and anhedonia) is a common depression symptom and initiation impairment is superficially similar.

The folks that took Ritalin 10-15 years ago presumably either had ADHD or another condition with similar symptoms. What are they treating that condition with now? If they're not treating it with anything, that would be a more likely explanation for their sadness/depression.

sarahsweets
10-08-16, 08:40 AM
I know that I cant claim solid research based on my own experiences but as I said my son was medicated at age 4 and is almost 21 now. You can read about it in the sticky in children's diagnosis.