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Side Effects of ADHD Medication

The side effects of ADHD medication are far more serious than most people realize.  ADHD drugs like Ritalin and Adderall are "mild stimulants" for the central nervous system that keep impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention under control.  ADHD medications are non-addictive by themselves, but there is a lot of potential for drug abuse because of their stimulant effects – increased attention, alertness, appetite suppression, and feelings of euphoria.  With long-term use, ADHD medication also causes serious unwanted side effects. Here are some of the side effects of ADHD medication.

Loss of appetite

Stimulants in ADHD medication often make children feel full even if they aren't, causing appetite loss.  This side effect tends to happen in younger children, but is said to improve after several months.  If it continues to persist, the dose is usually reduced.  Some of the newer non-stimulant ADHD medications do not cause as much appetite loss as stimulant drugs like Ritalin.

Rebound of symptoms

Some children who take short-acting ADHD drugs experience depression, anxiety, or irritability as the effects of the medication start to wear off.  Sometimes a rebound effect makes a child's behaviorworse than it was before the medication was given. Newer drugs with long-acting methylphenidate preparations reduce the likelihood of rebound, but it may still occur in some children.


Since ADHD medications act like stimulants, they make thoughts race faster and prevent the brain from quieting down and getting much-needed rest. Insomnia and sleep problems are more likely to occur with long-acting stimulant drugs. 

Growth retardation

In young children, ADHD medications can stunt growth by disrupting the release of the growth hormones from the pituitary gland.  But ADHD medications do not just affect physical growth – they can affect brain growth as well.  Studies show that stimulant drugs can cause a growing brain to malfunction, atrophy (shrink), or develop other permanent physical abnormalities.  Some short-term use can even cause brain cell death.

Paranoia or psychosis

This rare side effect can occur in those who are predisposed to developing bipolar disorder or other psychiatric conditions.  These side effects also happen when an overdose occurs. However, there have been some cases where children with no previous history of bipolar disorder developed paranoia or psychosis after taking ADHD medication.


Long-term use of Ritalin may lead to cardiac problems in children who are predisposed to developing them.   Sudden death from taking ADHD medication usually occurs because it damages the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart.  These changes are hardly ever found in young children, but are typically seen in adults who abuse stimulants like cocaine.

Although ADHD medications have helped a number of children overcome their symptoms, their effects are short-lived and fail to address the many possible causes of the disorder. Instead of medicating your child, consider a holistic, all-natural treatment plan to managing ADHD.