The meds that could increase heart damage in young adults

Young adults prescribed stimulant medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are 57% more likely to develop cardiomyopathy after eight years compared to those not on stimulants, a new study found.

The study, presented at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session, used the TriNetX research database to analyze data from people diagnosed with ADHD between age 20 and 40. Researchers paired each person who had been prescribed stimulants with an individual not prescribed stimulants but was as similar as possible in all other aspects. Overall, 12,759 pairs were created and followed for at least 10 years.

The study found people prescribed stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin were 17% more likely to develop cardiomyopathy after one year and 57% more likely to develop it at eight years. The overall prevalence of cardiomyopathy after being prescribed stimulants for 10 years was 0.72% for patients with stimulants and 0.53% for those not prescribed stimulants.

"The longer you leave patients on these medications, the more likely they are to develop cardiomyopathy, but the risk of that is very low," Pauline Gerard, a second-year medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colo., and the study's lead author, said in a March 27 association news release. "I don't think this is a reason to stop prescribing these medications. There's very little increased risk of these medications over the long term; it's a real risk, but it's small."

Previous studies that assessed the safety of stimulant medications focused on the first year or two and found no evidence of harm to the heart. 

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