Drugs like Ritalin and Adderall more likely to reduce anxiety in kids with ADHD than worsen it

New research published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology has found that psychostimulants like Ritalin and Adderall significantly reduce the risk of anxiety in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“These findings run contrary to conventional wisdom and United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drug labeling, which suggest that anxiety is a common side-effect of psychostimulant treatment,” wrote Catherine G. Coughlin of Yale University School of Medicine and her colleagues.

The researchers used a statistical technique known as a meta-analysis to summarize the data from 23 studies involving 2959 children with ADHD.

They found a statistically significant reduction in the risk of anxiety associated with psychostimulants compared to placebo. Higher doses of psychostimulants were associated with a greater reduction in the risk of anxiety in most cases.

“These results do not rule out the possibility that some children experience increased anxiety when treated with psychostimulants, but suggests that those risks are outweighed by children who experience improvement in anxiety symptoms,” the researchers explained.

“This new information on psychostimulants has the potential to change the way we treat kids with ADHD and improve the quality of their lives,” says Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology and president of the Child Mind Institute in New York.