Long-Term Effects of ADHD Medication

This is a transcript of the podcast Distraction, your survival guide to our crazy-busy, ever-connected modern world hosted by Dr. Edward Hallowell, ADHD expert. Dr. Hallowell talks with Ron, a listener of the podcast, about the long-term effects of ADHD medication.

Mini Episode 10: Listener Question: Long-Term Use of ADHD Medication

DR. HALLOWELL: Hello and welcome to this mini distraction. I’m your host, Dr. Ned Hallowell. Today, we’re going to share a question that I was asked recently here in our studios about ADHD medication. I’m often asked this type of question so that’s why we’re sharing it with you today.

Ron, welcome. I understand you have a question.

Ron: Yes, I do, Ned. I have a son who was many, many years ago diagnosed with ADHD. When he was in grammar school. They tried different medication and they determined that Dexedrine was the best medication for him. Everything worked fine. He went through grammar school, junior high, high school, college, successful. Moved out to the west coast, doing great, and the other day I was talking to him and we got on the subject and I said, “Gee, are you still taking Dexedrine.” He says, “Yeah, I’m still taking it. I take a five milligram dose every day and it works great.” I said, “You’re happy? Everything’s good?” He says, “Yeah, it keeps me focused at work and I’m all good with it.”

My question is all these years he’s been taking this medication. It’s an amphetamine. I’m wondering, is there any kind of long-term effects of ADHD medication that you can think of or anything like that?

DR. HALLOWELL: No, no. Not as far as we know. How old is he?

Ron: He’s thirty.

long-term effects of adhd medication

Side Effects

DR. HALLOWELL: Okay. Most of the side effects that are going to occur, occur right away. Elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, sometimes people don’t like the way it makes them feel. Whatever’s going to happen usually happens right away. We don’t have long term studies of people who have been taking it for twenty-five years. We do, however, have studies of people who have been taking another stimulant for a long time, mainly caffeine.

Ron: I can attest to that. I’m a big user.

DR. HALLOWELL: It is highly likely that there are no long term damages. Now, you Google it, you’ll read all sorts of reports of all kinds of terrible things it can do long term. That’s because, for some reason, people like to scare people when it comes to. My own daughter has been taking stimulates, amphetamine since she was in third grade. She’s now twenty-six years old. It helps her enormously.

Ron: Ritalin’s the same?

Methylphenidate and Amphetamine

DR. HALLOWELL: There’s two molecules; there’s methylphenidate and amphetamine. Meythylphenidate is Ritalin, Ritalin LA, Focalin, Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate. Those are all methylphenidate. Amphetamine is Dexedrine, Adderall and Vyvanse. There’s basically two molecules that spin out in those different directions. They work wonders when they’re used properly. They can be dangerous if they’re not used properly.

Ron: He originally tried Ritalin. It didn’t work well for him. Anxiety, different things and then he tried Dexedrine and that seemed to do the trick. I was just wondering if any long term but apparently not at this point.

DR. HALLOWELL: Not as far as we know. I can’t say it a hundred percent certain because we don’t have long term studies because we used to stomp it during puberty. There’s no reason to believe it’s going to suddenly crop up as causing brain cancer at age forty or something.

Ron: That’s great to know. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

DR. HALLOWELL: My pleasure. Thank you, Ron.

Well, that’s it. Would you like to ask me a question? If you can’t be here in person, record it on your smart phone and send it to [email protected]. Be sure to include your first name and tell us where you’re from. Speaking of which, we’re looking for listener contributions for our upcoming Father’s Day show. Record a few nice words about your dad and then email us the file. I look forward to hearing them and thanks for listening.

This is a transcript of the podcast Distraction, “Listener Question: Long-Term Use of ADHD Medication”. Distraction is available on iTunes.


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