hero image

A recent study suggests that individuals using stimulant medications such as Adderall or Ritalin for ADHD may face a heightened risk of developing cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle condition. Despite this finding, researchers emphasize that the overall risk remains relatively low, urging caution rather than panic among users.

ADHD medications increase risk of cardiomyopathy

The study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session analyzed data from over 12,700 young adults aged 20 to 40 diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Researchers compared those prescribed stimulant ADHD medications to those who were not. They discovered that patients on stimulants had a 17% higher chance of developing cardiomyopathy after one year, and this risk increased to 57% after eight years compared to the non-medicated group.

Cardiomyopathy is a condition characterized by weakened heart muscles, resulting in impaired blood pumping. Symptoms include shortness of breath, reduced ability to exercise, and fatigue. If left untreated, it may progress to heart failure.

Researchers highlight that despite the seemingly alarming increase in the risk of cardiomyopathy associated with long-term stimulant use, the overall prevalence of this condition remained low in both the medicated and non-medicated groups throughout the ten-year study period. Specifically, after a decade of stimulant use, 0.72% of patients developed cardiomyopathy, compared to 0.53% in those who did not take the medication.

Risk of cardiomyopathy still low despite prolonged use of medications

The risk of developing cardiomyopathy from certain medications, even when used for a long time, is relatively low, as explained by Pauline Gerard, a medical student at the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine. Approximately 1 in 500 patients may experience this condition over a 10-year period. Therefore, doctors may not need to alter their prescribing practices or screening procedures based on these findings.

Gerard argues against discontinuing the prescription of these medications, stating that while there is a slight long-term risk associated with them, it is minimal and not significant enough to warrant cessation. Despite their benefits like managing impulsive behavior and aiding in focus, stimulants such as norepinephrine and dopamine can elevate blood pressure due to increased heart rate and force.