February 9, 2006
"Someone I knew first year would use Ritalin just to stay up and study for exams," said student Lesley Hogg.
"It's more effective than caffeine. It's medication and they feel like it's safe because it's prescription," said Han West, another student.
But ADHD medication may not be as safe as once thought. According to the FDA in the past few years 25 people died while they were on ADHD drugs. 19 of them were children. The FDA said there is a strong possibility that popular drugs like Ritalin are to blame.
Even though some of these ADHD drug-treated patients had pre-existing heart conditions or hypertension, The FDA Advisory Committee is recommending a "black box" warning for the prescribed medication.
"That's concerning but it doesn't prove that the medications are the things that caused the children to die," said Dr. Kenneth Norwood, of the Kluge Children's Rehab Center.
Doctors like Norwood said those drugs are relatively safe and the benefits outweigh the risks. "There are a number of studies that have shown that these medicines will generate some milder improvements in attention, focus and cognitive performance," said Dr. Norwood.
For now, Dr. Norwood said he will continue to prescribe the drugs for the disorder that effects at least 5 percent of the population. But if the FDA agrees with the advisory committee's recommendation it could lead to new warning labels on the ADHD drugs.