Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common psychiatric disorder that is diagnosed and treated in children and adolescents. Often, patients with ADHD struggle to pay attention, act impulsively and are hyperactive. The most commonly prescribed medication to treat the symptoms of ADHD is methylphenidate, a stimulate drug that is also used to treat narcolepsy. A recent Cochrane review has determined that although methylphenidate may be effective in treating symptoms of ADHD, there are potential side effects.
This review involved 12,245 children that were previously diagnosed with ADHD. The trial compared the effects of methylphenidate and a placebo, in which participants took either one or the other. The duration of this study continued an average of 75 days but ranged from one to 425 days, which means the long-term effects of methylphenidate were not conclusive during this study. Another important note is that 40% of the trials were funded by the industry.
Findings from this study suggest that certain symptoms of ADHD might improve by using methylphenidate. Symptoms such as reduced hyperactivity and impulsivity and improved concentration were some of the improvements that were discovered during this trial.
Researchers found that it was possible some of the participants were able to tell whether or not they were taking the placebo instead of the actual medication, methylphenidate. Although the findings suggested that methylphenidate might improve ADHD symptoms, researchers found that this drug suppresses the appetite and interferes with one’s quality of sleep.
By the conclusion of this study, researchers determined that although there may be an improvement in ADHD symptoms, there are also non-serious health concerns that should be considered, such as decreased appetite and problems sleeping. Therefore, there is not enough evidence that supports methylphenidate is an effective treatment for ADHD. Higher quality trials should be conducted with adults who have ADHD, and consider the use of a “nocebo,” to determine whether or not methylphenidate is truly an effective drug for treating symptoms of ADHD. If this drug proves to be effective for adults, more clinical trials could be conducted with children.