More and more, adults are turning to medications to treat ADHD. Their use in adults is outstripping their use in children and teens.
These medications have been shown to raise heart rate and blood pressure in some past studies, which may lead to heart attack, stroke and sudden cardiac death.
The medications examined in the current study included methylphenidate (Ritalin), amphetamine (Adderall) and atomoxetine (Strattera), which make up the vast majority of the medications prescribed to treat ADHD.
Researchers compared two decades’ worth of health records of 150,000 adults on one of these medications to 300,000 adults who weren’t to arrive at their results.
The researchers found that the use of ADHD medications was not linked to greater risk of serious cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, sudden cardiac death or stroke. The results held up even among users with prior heart disease.
Although the studies do not support claims that ADHD drugs significantly increase the risk for life-threatening heart events, the researchers conclude that a modest increase in risk associated with their use cannot be ruled out.
“We found no increase in risk of serious cardiovascular events associated with use of ADHD medications. We also found no evidence that risk was elevated patients with a prior history of cardiovascular disease,” said Laurel Habel, Ph.D., a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland, and one of the study’s authors.
“But it is also important that we can’t completely rule out the risk,” she added.
According to in an accompanying editorial by Dr. Philip Shaw of the National Human Genome Research Institute, there appears to be little evidence now to support routine use of electrocardiograms (EKGs) to check for possible heart problems, a recommendation previously made in 2008 by the American Heart Association.
The new study joins one published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine that found no association between ADHD medications and serious cardiovascular events in children and young adults. It appears in the December 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.