An October 19, 2006 Associated Press (AP) story reporting on a new long term government study showed 30% of preschool children suffered severe adverse reactions after taking Ritalin. The study, published in the November 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, calls into question the efficacy and usage of these types of drugs.
In an Associated Press story of October 19, 2006 on this report, it was noted that the drug isn't approved for use in children under age 6. In spite of this Ritalin is widely used in younger children and the article noted that according to the study, preschoolers are more likely than older children to develop side effects.
This report is concerned with the overuse of Ritalin in children not diagnosed as "severe". Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, cautioned, "We're not talking about fidgety 3-year-olds." He noted that the study focused on severe cases, "cases that included hanging from ceiling fans, jumping off slides or playing with fire."
Dr. Sidney Wolfe of the watchdog group Public Citizen added, "I hope publication of this does not lead to more over prescribing," he said . "The safety isn't adequately established, the efficacy even less."
Usage of this drug had physical effects found in the study. During the 70-week study, preschoolers on methylphenidate, or generic Ritalin, grew about half an inch less and gained about 2 pounds less than expected. In this study, 11% of the183 preschoolers who participated discontinued drug use due to adverse events.
It should be noted that according to the AP article, previous studies found that approximately 1 in 100 preschoolers had been prescribed Ritalin, even though this drug has only been approved for use in children aged 6 and older. They noted that usage in younger children is considered "off-label" but is not illegal