ADHD drugs raise blood pressure but do not seem to endanger adult hearts

THE QUESTION Might adults with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder face added risk for serious cardiovascular problems because of the medications they take — drugs that have been shown to raise blood pressure and heart rate?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 443,198 adults, 25 to 64 years old, including 150,359 who took ADHD medications, mainly Ritalin (methylphenidate) or Adderall (amphetamine) but also Strattera (atomoxetine) or Cylert (pemoline). In about a two-year period, 1,357 heart attacks, 575 strokes and 296 sudden cardiac deaths were recorded.  However, the cardiovascular problems occurred at virtually the same rate among people who took ADHD medications and those who did not, regardless of people’s age, how long they had been taking the medication or which drug they took.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Adults with ADHD, who are reported to number more than 1.5 million in the United States and who account for nearly a third of all prescriptions for ADHD medications.

CAVEATS Usage data came from electronic records of filled prescriptions; consumption of medication was not verified. The study did not determine whether dosage made a difference or whether use of the medications contributed to less severe cardiovascular problems. People 65 and older were not included in the study.

FIND THIS STUDY Dec. 12 online issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (


Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.