Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is one of the most common mental disorders among children and adolescents. ADHD treatment typically involves long-term treatment using stimulants such as Ritalin (methylphenidate)-based medications.
There has been a global increase in MPH-based medication prescriptions to treat ADHD over the past few decades, especially among children and adolescents. The long-term health effects of MPH exposure have been a major concern for public health, especially given the high prevalence, long-term duration and early onset of MPH treatment.
Research has shown that MPH-based medications can be taken as prescribed. This is usually done during or shortly after puberty. This helps to prevent anxiety and depression later. A new 12-year longitudinal study of 6,830 children, which followed them from their early childhood through their adolescence, found that consistent treatment using MPH-based medications in childhood increases the chance of antidepressant use in adolescence.
The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and physicians and psychiatrists at Clalit Health Services, Israel’s largest healthcare organisation, and the Geha Mind Health Center. It is the first to examine the link between ADHD-diagnosed children and MPH-prescribed children between the ages six and eight years, as well as future antidepressant prescriptions. The journal recently published the research findings. European Child and Adolescent Psychoiatry.
The researchers collected data on all children who received MPH-based medication for the first time between the ages 6 and 8. They then tracked individual adherence by comparing the number of months that the medication was bought to the prescribed amount — until the age 12. After adjusting for individual risk factors such as antidepressant use by parents (OR = 1.50), it was found that children who adhered well (above 50%) were more likely to be prescribed antidepressants between the age of 12-18.
“Parents and teachers should be aware MPH-based medications can be used to predict the use of antidepressants. Our findings emphasize the importance of regular follow-up for children who started MPH treatment at the age of eight, and who continued their treatment,” Dr. Nir Madjar of Bar-Ilan University’s Churgin School of Education led the study.
Although greater ADHD symptoms can be treated with greater adherence, it is possible that the underlying emotional or behavioral dysregulation in ADHD-symptomatic children could still be present in adolescence. This may be reflected in the rise of antidepressant medications.
Materials provided by Bar-Ilan University. Note: Content can be edited for style or length.