That’s the harsh truth! And doctors, so far, didn’t realise they are robbing Peter to pay Paul. Commonly prescribed drugs for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, like Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall are suspected to affect bone density. The evidence-based research found that young people are affected the most and prolonged usage of ADHD medication may bear serious consequences during the adult years, like osteoporosis.
Since ADHD affects over 6 million US children (source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), this is a serious concern for the future of the socio-economic well being of the nation.
Dr. Alexis Feuer, Pediatric Endocrinologist, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York City explains, “It’s the teen and the young adulthood years when peak bone mass density is accrued. This is vital periods for the development of largest and densest bones, which, if fail to reach the required mass and density (by early adulthood) often bring an increased risk for fractures and osteoporosis to set in late adulthood.”
Source of these Findings
The data that was used came from U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The researchers scrutinised the bone density of a total of 6,400 young people (8 years to 20-year-olds). Among these survey participants, 159 were on stimulant ADHD drugs.
A bone-density and bone-mineral content measuring tests were performed on all of them, using Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. The tests determined bone weight index, which is a more accurate measure to determine total bone health.
The children and young adults on the drugs coming under the category of methylphenidate showed average bone mineral content to be lower by 5.1% at the lumbar spine region and by 5.3% at the hip bone than those who were not. However, taken collectively (the spine and the hip), the mineral density was found to be lower by a total of 4%.
Proceedings with the Study
The findings were presented last Friday at the annual meeting of the Boston Endocrine Society. Though it’s going to be considered a preliminary study into the subject (before being published in peer-reviewed medical journals), there have been previous researches in the field that claim ADHD drugs to be one of the big reasons behind slow growth rates.
The researchers didn’t specify clearly if the drugs have any direct effect on bone strength, but the evidence they present tends to point to a clear impact of ADHD medication on slow growth and bone malformation. Only future researches will tell the degree of osteoporotic side effects of these medications on growing children.
Remedial Measures that Parents can Take
If your child is on ADHD medication, there are a few things you can do to take preventive/remedial measures:
- Monitoring of bone health before, during and after a treatment session with these stimulants.
- Exercising with medium to heavyweights.
- Encouraging your children to participate in sports (READ: How Sports can help your child with ADHD)
- Physical Therapy suitable for children with Autism and ADHD
- Proper nutritional intake, especially calcium, vitamin D and D3. Not only these protect existing bone health, they also ensure betterment.