ADHD drugs are increasingly coming under heavy scrutiny and criticism. For example, the latest group to demand for tighter control of these drugs is an influential advisory panel of pediatricians who want the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to add new â€œblack boxâ€ warnings to the labels of these drugs.
Available clinical data show that the rate at which ADHD is being diagnosed in kids is at an all-time high and it is still rising.
For a disorder that cannot be diagnosed by any laboratory tests, physicians have to rely on their subjective judgment of reported symptoms. Unfortunately, it seems that parents are eager to find a diagnosis for their kidsâ€™ peculiar childhood nuances in a fast-paced digital age that promotes short attention span and physicians are all too eager to arrive at the popular diagnosis of ADHD.
This has directly resulted in an upsurge of ADHD drug prescriptions especially in the United States.
Most (a disproportionate number) of the sale of ADHD drugs happens in the US. For example, over 85% of global sale of Ritalin, which is currently the most popular ADHD drug, is prescribed in the US.
Ritalin and the host of psychiatry and stimulant drugs prescribed for ADHD in doctorsâ€™ offices have very serious side effects.
These drugs, which are now being given to children like candies, act by changing the way the brain works; they interfere with neurotransmitter levels in the brain and they stimulate different parts of the brain. These profound interferences in central nervous system can be pretty detrimental to the rapidly developing brains of children and the vastly changing bodies of teenagers.
ADHD Drugs: A History of Side Effects
Like most conventional drugs prescribed every day, ADHD drugs do have their share of side effects.
However, given that most of these drugs are prescribed to children, their serious side effects can be fatal or cause permanent damage.
Already, ADHD drugs carry warnings of risks of stroke and heart attack. This has led some experts to advice children diagnosed with ADHD to get EKG exams before they are placed on these drugs. It is believed that some children may have risk factors that can predispose them to these side effects.
However, an FDA investigation discovered that children with no identifiable risk factors can experience the psychotic side effects of these drugs. And those side effects can be very traumatizing.
In one Canadian study which analyzed the side effects of the ADHD drugs, Concerta and Strattera, in a sample 600 cases, some very disturbing adverse effects were reported. Some of the common side effects seen in these cases include psychotic breakdown, depression, hallucination (including hearing voices), convulsions as well as heart and liver problems.
More revealing are the 20 cases of overdose, eight of which were intentional.
This last group of side effects represent the culmination of psychotic breakdown and hallucination. It represents a curious new revelation being increasingly reported: the revelation that ADHD drugs cause suicide ideation and are responsible for actual suicides.
For any age group, suicidal tendency is a side effect that should lead to a more thorough re-evaluation of a drug and tighter controls; in children and adolescents, this is a horrible side effect.
Suicide and ADHD Drugs
Already, one ADHD drug carries a â€œblack boxâ€ warning of its potential to promote suicidal thoughts and actions. That drug is Strattera.
Curiously, the information available on Strattera website suggests that the drug does not cause suicidal thoughts unless there is an underlying psychological condition that increases the risk of suicides in the children and teenagers taking Strattera.
The real-world cases that doctors report in post-marketing surveillance, however, indicate that ADHD kids with no risk factor of psychological disorders can also experience suicidal tendencies.
Strattera is not the only ADHD drugs that is already recognized for its side effect of suicide ideation. The information on Vyanase website also states that the drug can cause psychotic symptoms such as visual and auditory hallucination (â€œseeing thingsâ€ and â€œhearing voicesâ€) as well as being needlessly suspicious.
It used to be believed that Strattera and Vyanase are the only ADHD drugs with any association to suicidal tendencies but new clinical data now prove that stimulant drugs are not exempt.
Pyshcostimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, Focalin and Concerta are the subjects of the proposed recommendation to be included in the list of ADHD drugs to carry the â€œblack boxâ€ warning of suicidal tendencies.
The Concern of the Pediatricians
In January 2012, a group of concerned pediatricians who are members of an FDA advisory committee advised the drug regulatory agency to change the label of Focalin to include warnings of some side effects including the risk of suicidal ideation.
Focalin is made by Novartis and recommended for kids 6 years and older for the treatment of ADHD.
In the last six years, the FDA confirmed receiving eight reports of suicidal tendencies following Focalin administration. However, the body could only confirm four of those reports to be solely due to the ADHD drug.
With such low rate and the high prescription rate of Focalin, the FDA believed suicidal ideation was not a severe enough side effect to enforce Novartis to include on Focalinâ€™s label. However, the recommendation from the pediatrician advisory panel may change that.
Although the FDA does not have to follow the recommendations of its advisory panels, they usually do given that the committee members are seasoned physicians with reputable practices and extensive professional experiences.
While the pediatricians insist that the risk of suicidal ideation is pretty serious with Focalin, reports indicate that FDA officials were especially taken aback because such side effect was not seen during the clinical trial for Focalin.
However, this may well be another example of a drug company failing to fully report the damage its drug could cause during clinical trials in a desperate bid to get FDA approval.
Such deceit is possible because the FDA essentially lets drug companies police their own clinical trials.
The risk of suicidal tendency is not the only new side effect the advisory panel of pediatricians want stamped on Focalin. They also want the label on Focalin to spell out the increased risk of the allergic reaction also known as anaphylaxis as well as angioedema which are pockets of swelling underneath the skin.
In a textbook response, Novartis has promised to include a â€œblack boxâ€ warning of these side effects on the label of Focalin when it discusses them with the FDA.
ADHD Drugs or Not?
With Focalin added to Strattera and Vyanase on the list of ADHD drugs that increases suicidal tendencies, there will be increased scrutiny of the other ADHD drugs to see if they also come with the same risks.
Given that these drugs are similar, it is most likely that such risks will be found.
ADHD drugs are closely linked to psychiatric medications such as antidepressants, and those are already known to paradoxically increase the likelihood of suicides. These drugs profoundly affect different parts of the brain, and they can rewire the brain if taken for extended periods.
Before other drugs are rightly labelled to warn about their tendency to promote suicide, quite a number of ADHD kids would have been affected. You can make sure your kid is not another casualty of Big Pharmaâ€™s greediness by taking him off ADHD drugs.
All parents whose ADHD kids demonstrated suicidal tendencies when placed on these drugs report dramatic improvements when those kids are taken off the drugs. Before the cumulative effects of ADHD drugs drive your kid towards conceiving suicide, you need to stop them from taking these drugs.
There are non-drug alternatives that can help your kid cope better with ADHD.
Furthermore, natural ADHD remedies are quite helpful. Some of these remedies are just as effective as ADHD drugs and are free of the serious side effects associated with the likes of Ritalin.
These ADHD remedies include herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other natural supplements. They can help correct the root problems (such as nutritional deficiencies and impaired brain development) that cause ADHD.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Hive Health Media does not endorse or denounce them.