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Public health officials are concerned that stimulants may be inappropriately prescribed for adult ADHD. Stimulants do work, but they increase blood pressure and pulse rate, which could lead to strokes and heart attacks. These drugs are very strongly labeled for their risk to the cardiovascular system.
Patients with hypertension (high blood pressure) shouldn't be getting stimulants. About one-third of U.S. adults have high blood pressure.
There are a lot of people who don't know they have hypertension or heart disease. In many people, the first symptom of heart disease is sudden death. Therefore, adults with ADHD who are prescribed stimulants are advised to make sure their doctor is fully informed of their total medical condition -- and to get a complete medical workup to make sure they're not at risk.
Even those without hypertension who take stimulants for their ADHD may be at risk. It's unknown whether adults who take stimulants over long periods of time may have an increased risk of sudden death, stroke, or heart attack. We do know, however, that people who take an overdose of stimulants experience these adverse effects.
Research has shown that people who take stimulants as adult ADHD medication in the form and dosage prescribed do not appear to be at as great a risk for addiction as previously feared. However, when stimulants are abused, the consequences can be extremely dangerous -- even deadly.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, taking high doses of a stimulant can cause an irregular heartbeat, dangerously high body temperatures, and heart failure or lethal seizures.