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Are ADHD drugs bad for the bones?

Are ADHD drugs bad for the bones?

A study recently published in JAMA Pediatrics* shows bone mineral content (BMC) and bone mineral density (BMD) to be lower among children and adolescents who were taking stimulants compared with those who were not.

This study evaluated participants aged 8 to 20 years from 2005-2010. Participants who used amphetamine, methylphenidate, lisdexamfetamine, dimesylate, dextroamphetamine or levoamphetamine were evaluated.

Of all participants, 159 were stimulant users, most of whom were male and white, as compared with nonusers. Additionally, compared with nonusers, male stimulant users had lower BMIs, BMI z scores, weight, and weight z scores; female stimulant users had lower weight and BMI—although mean BMI and weight z scores were within reference ranges for both groups. Height was also significantly shorter for male and female stimulant users vs nonusers, but height z scores were not significantly different.

“Overall, our data suggest that stimulant use is associated with lower BMD and BMC in pediatric patients. These findings can have potential clinical significance as the prevalence of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) continues to rise,” the researchers wrote. “Because adolescence and young adulthood are critical times for bone mass accrual, further investigation of the effects of stimulants on bone remodeling and bone density is necessary.”

“Further longitudinal studies are needed to confirm our findings and to determine future risk for fracture. Because stimulants are commonly prescribed in pediatrics, the need to clarify their skeletal effects is vital,” they concluded.

The Vitopia View

I think Dr. Mark Hyman said it well when he said, “Attention deficit disorder(ADD), today referred to as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is not a Ritalin deficiency, yet the use of these drugs is skyrocketing.”

One in ten American kids are on stimulant medications. In fact, the global use of ADHD medication rose 300 percent from 1993 to 2000.

In Dr. Hyman’s book “The UltraMind Solution”, he explores the causes and solutions for mental suffering and the epidemics of depression, anxiety, dementia, autism, and ADHD we see in today’s world. In other words, he is taking a functional medicine approach and looking at these issues as symptoms of an underlying condition.

Some of the dietary and lifestyle changes that can positively impact ADHD include:

  • Eat whole foods and avoid processed food
  • Identify and remove food allergy and sensitivities.
  • Avoid inflammatory foods.
  • Check for nutrient deficiencies.
  • Improve gut health.
  • Get plenty of antioxidants.
  • Detoxification.

I frequently have concerned parents ask for recommendations on treating their child with stimulant medications and I understand their concern. As parents, we always want to take the cautious approach and do what is best for our child.

Remember that every child is unique and you should always work with a trained doctor. If you child is currently on one of these medications, it should never be discontinued without physician supervision.

I understand that deciding how to treat your child with ADHD is a stressful and difficult decision. However, my goal is not to make that decision or to judge whatever decision you and your physician determine is best, but to present you with the latest research and tools to make an informed choice.

Wishing you good health!

Mike Woodley, R.Ph, FAARM, FMNM

*Reference: Feuer AJ, Thai A, Demmer RT. Association of stimulant medication use with bone mass in children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. JAMA Pediatrics. 2016 Oct 3.


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