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Do ADHD Drugs Take a Toll on the Brain?

Research hints that hidden risks might accompany long-term use of the medicines that treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
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PASIEKA/SPL/Photo Researchers, Inc.

A few years ago a single mother who had recently moved to town came to my office asking me to prescribe the stimulant drug Adderall for her sixth-grade son. The boy had been taking the medication for several years, and his mother had liked its effects: it made homework time easier and improved her son’s grades.

At the time of this visit, the boy was off the medication, and I conducted a series of cognitive and behavioral tests on him. He performed wonderfully. I also noticed that off the medication he was friendly and playful. On a previous casual encounter, when the boy had been on Adderall, he had seemed reserved and quiet. His mother acknowledged this was a side effect of the Adderall. I told her that I did not think her son had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and that he did not need medication. That was the last time I saw her.

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