ADHD Home > ADHD Medications
Stimulant ADHD medications, when used with medical supervision, are usually considered quite safe. Stimulants do not make the child feel "high," although some children say they feel different or funny. Such changes are usually minor.
Although some parents worry that their child may become addicted to these drugs, to date, there is no convincing evidence that stimulant medications (when used for the treatment of ADHD) cause drug abuse or dependence.
A review of all long-term studies on stimulant medication and substance abuse, conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, found that teenagers with ADHD who remained on medications during the teen years had a lower likelihood of substance use or abuse than did adolescents who were not taking medications.
For children with ADHD who do not respond to the approved ADHD medications or who cannot tolerate the side effects, other medications may be helpful. Sometimes, the healthcare provider may prescribe an ADHD medication for a young child or an adult, even though that drug is not approved for adults or young children. This is called an "off-label" use. It means that a prescription medicine is used to treat a disease or condition for which it has not been approved by the FDA.
Although the FDA regulates how a medication can be advertised or promoted by the manufacturer, these regulations do not restrict a doctor's ability to prescribe it for different conditions, in different doses, or for different lengths of time. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a medicine for off-label use when he or she feels that it is appropriate for your situation.
While such use often occurs in the treatment of many conditions, such as ADHD, you should feel comfortable about asking your healthcare provider if he or she is using a medication or combination of medications in a manner that is not approved by the FDA.
Many of the newer drugs that are proving helpful for mental disorders in children are sometimes prescribed off-label, since only a few of them have been adequately studied in children. Medications that have not undergone such testing are dispensed with the statement that "safety and efficacy have not been established in pediatric patients."