The scientists maintain that the drug benefits children with severe ADHD, and that the positive outcome of its use outweighs its drawbacks, but they also recommended close monitoring of preschoolers on the medication.
Preschoolers on the generic version of Ritalin, methylphenidate, showed slowed growth, increasing about a half-inch less in height and gaining 2 pounds less in weight than expected during the study. About 40 percent of children taking the drug developed side effects, and 11 percent of children dropped out of the study due to irritability, weight loss, insomnia, and other problems. Some children even reacted with severe behaviors including hanging from ceiling fans and playing with fire.
"It is beyond shameful that doctors and parents are giving these amphetamine drugs to preschoolers," said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate and critic of the overmedication of children. "These children don't need drugs, they need nutritional support and the elimination of toxic chemicals from their foods.
"I find it astounding that in our public schools, which claim to be 'drug free zones,' teachers and school administrators have become drug pushers who urge parents to put their children on psychotropic drugs that would be called 'speed' on the street," Adams said.
The side effects reported on Ritalin's label include stomachaches, headaches and hallucinations, but reports have suggested it also causes more severe reactions such as liver problems and even death. The FDA's advisory committee voted 8-7 in favor of putting a black box warning -- the FDA's most severe warning for side effects in drugs -- on the box of Ritalin, but the FDA has not yet taken any action on the recommendation, nor is it obligated to.