A Dutch research group compared the effect of methylphenidate hydrochloride in adults and in children with ADHD, and found that the drug induced alterations in the brain blood flow of children, but not in adults.
Methylphenidate hydrochloride, sold under the brand names like Ritalin, is a commonly used medication for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It increases the dopamine (a neurotransmitter) levels in specific areas of the brain and reduces the symptoms of ADHD. This drug is often used in adolescents, and as the adolescent brain is still developing and has a high plasticity, it may be vulnerable to the effects of methylphenidate hydrochloride and may be affected negatively in the long run.
A study group from The Netherlands recently published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry in which they compared the effect of methylphenidate hydrochloride on adults and adolescents. 50 10-12 year old boys and 48 23-40 year old men were included in this 16-week double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, who suffered from ADHD and had not been treated with methylphenidate hydrochloride before. Half of the men and boys were treated with the drug and the other half received placebo. The participants’ brains were examined with pharmacological MRI (phMRI) before the 16-week treatment period and one week after that to identify changes in the cerebral blood flow (CBF). Researchers found that methylphenidate hydrochloride was more effective in reducing symptoms of ADHD than placebo in both men and boys. In children, phMRI showed an increase in CBF in some areas of the brain one week after the treatment was over, while such changes were not detected in either the adult or in the placebo group.
It seems that methylphenidate hydrochloride, a frequently prescribed medication for ADHD, has a different and more elongated effect in children than in adults. Further research is needed to identify the long-term effects of this drug on the brain of adolescents.
Written By: Dr. Fanni R. Eros