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Does stimulant medication for pediatric ADHD affect adult height?

A recent review found that multiple clinical trials indicated a reduction in adult height potential for children with long-term use of stimulant medication for treatment of ADHD, but other studies conflict with this data.

There is conflicting evidence on whether stimulant medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diminishes adult height potential, but a recent review concluded that long-term use of stimulants can lessen adult height potential.1

Concerns have arisen over linear growth being affected by the use of stimulant medication for treating symptoms of ADHD in children. Prior studies have supported this claim, but further evidence is needed to determine long-term effects on adult height after using stimulants during childhood.

To analyze how stimulant medication for ADHD affects long-term height, investigators conducted a literature review across PubMed and MEDLINE databases. Articles were only included if they contained information on the final height or near final height of patients.

In early studies, growth suppression was observed while treatment was active, but final adult height did not differ between ADHD and control groups.

A recent multimodal treatment of ADHD study indicated that long-term use of stimulants can have a significant impact on final adult height when comparing long-term patterns of stimulant treatment as consistent, intermittent, and negligible groups. The consistent use subgroup wasshorter than the other 2 groups by a significant margin.

Investigators concluded that caution is necessary when using stimulant medication for treatment of ADHD, as long-term use could reduce height potential. They also recommended that pediatric endocrinologists consider long-term use of stimulants as a factor for reduced adult height.

Studies not included in the review indicated that stimulants do not have any effect on height.2 The study “ADHD, Stimulant Treatment, and Growth: A Longitudinal Study” compared 340 adults who had used stimulants to treat diagnosed ADHD during childhood with a control group of 680 adults. Adult height did not see significant differences between the 2 groups.

Another study analyzed the effect of stimulants on obesity, but height was measured as part of the study. No significant effect on height was observed.

These results show a different perspective, indicating a possibility that the impact of stimulants on adult height is minimal or nonexistent.

Reference

1. WojnowskiNM, Zhou E, Jee YH. Effect of stimulants on final adult height. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2022;11:1337-1344. doi:10.1515/jpem-2022-0344

2. Could Your child’s meds affect his height? likely not. CHADD May 23, 2019. Accessed November 8, 2022. https://chadd.org/adhd-weekly/could-your-childs-meds-affect-his-height-likely-not/#:~:text=However%2C%20when%20they%20compared%20participants,effect%20on%20height%20in%20children