The Myth of ADHD Meds
Some interesting research has challenged the idea that ADHD meds, like Adderall and Ritalin help boost kids’ grades. They have been called “cognitive enhancers” for they do improve attention, concentration, and even some types of memory. College students, in particular, who use someone else’s meds when faced with a big test, find that it helps. And in that situation, the research suggests it does help.
But several long term studies, one that followed over 4000 students over the course of 11 years, found that in the long run, the medications did not help with achievement scores or grade-points. In fact, they found that boys given the ADHD medications performed worse than boys with the same symptoms but no medications. The girls taking the medications reported more emotional problems, and there were no gains in their academic achievements or grade-point averages when compared to girls with the same symptoms but no medications.
What puzzled the researchers is that if the medications improve attention, focus, and self control, why aren’t the students’ grades improved over time. It seems the effects of the medications don’t translate into the classroom, especially in the long run. So another study was designed to look at this question.
They found that in the first year of taking the medications, everything improved–attention, focus, and even grade-points. But by the third year, any benefits of taking one of these medications was gone. Now, eight years later, the findings have been confirmed–no long-term benefits.
Another study found that the medications helped the student focus better, but didn’t help the student in deciding what to focus on. A child may focus on studying, or on a conversation with a friend.
The bottom line is this: If you have a child taking these medications, be careful in your expectations. You may see some things change, but in the long run,don’t be surprised if those changes fade or even disappear.
Question: If your child, or an adult in your family has been on ADHD medications for some time, talk about how it’s working today.