ADHD Medication and Impacts

As someone who has been prescribed Vyvanse since I was in nineth grade, I have more than a few opinions about prescription stimulants. Explicitly, these drugs are meant to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), however, they are also used as study drugs.

Amphetamines have a long history of misuse in the U.S. In the late 1940’s and into the 50’s, pharmaceutical companies began advertising amphetamines (such as Dexamyl and Methedrine) as a treatment for emotional distress and as a weight loss pill. Production and sales skyrocketed while to adverse effects were ignored.

Between 2001 and 2011,  the number of children diagnosed with ADHD rose 24% accompanied by an exponential rise in the prescription for Adderall and other ADHD drugs. These prescription drugs have a multitude of side effects. Particularly, children experience sleep difficulties when taking ADHD medications. In a metanalysis of 9 studies, it was found that stimulant medication leads to poor sleep overall. Extended release versions have less impact on sleep than immediate-release versions that usually are taken multiple times throughout the day. It was found that the quality of sleep was worse, that boys are disproportionately affected, and the amount of sleep was reduced for children taking stimulants.

A study on the effects of lisdexamfetamin dimesylate (LDX), also known as Vyvanse, on individuals with bipolar I/II disorder with comorbid ADHD found that LDX resulted in weight loss (McIntyre 421). The study included 45 participants with stable BD and comorbid ADHD who were given LDX over a four week period to (McIntyre 424). In general, the participants tolerated the drug and did not experience any hypo/mania symptoms during the trial (McIntyre 426). However, being only a short term study, the long term effects remain unknown. There was a significant decrease in weight and noticeable alleviation of ADHD and depressive symptoms (McIntyre 426).

The development of children is impacted by the prescription of ADHD medications. These drugs lead to issues with sleep and weight loss. I was 14 when I was first prescribed Vyvanse and I was unaware of the side effects or implications of long term use. All I knew was that it would help me in school and that I was told by my psychiatrist that I should take it every day. It did help me in school, in fact, I had never felt smarter. I also lost a significant amount of weight, which I thought was an awesome little bonus. I did not know that Vyvanse would cause my blood pressure to rise and increase my anxiety over time. There is a serious disconnect between prescriber and consumer, specifically for children since they are too young to fully weigh the benefits and risks of taking ADHD medication.


McIntyre, Roger, Mohammad Alsuwaidan, Joanna K. Soczynska, Isaac Szpindel, Timothy S. Bilkey, Doron Almagor, Hanna O. Woldeyohannes, et al. 2013. “The Effect of Lisdexamfetamine Dimesylate on Body Weight, Metabolic Parameters, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Symptomatology in Adults with Bipolar I/II Disorder.” Human Psychopharmacology 28, (2013): 421-427.

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