ADHD Medications Can Cause Hallucinations
The medications Concerta, Ritalin and Strattera, which are commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can cause rare but disturbing side effects. Hallucinations of bugs, worms, or snakes have been reported in children taking the drugs, and the episodes may involve visual images, crawling sensations on the skin, or both.
Experts from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed results of 49 clinical trials and post-marketing reports for these medications and found more than 800 incidences of psychosis or mania occurring in children, about 90 percent of which had no prior history of such episodes.
However, given the number of children taking ADHD stimulant medications, this figure hardly represents an epidemic number of such cases. It’s estimated that a little over 4 percent of children in the United States are taking medication to treat their ADHD, and only about one or two children experience psychotic episodes for every 100 “person-years” of treatment. Most of the children who experienced hallucinations were quite young, and the hallucinations went away as soon as the children quit taking the medication.
In the February issue of Pediatrics, authors of the FDA study cautioned that "Patients and physicians should be aware that psychosis or mania arising during drug treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may represent adverse drug reactions.”
But physicians like Dr. William Cohen, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician working at the Child Development Unit at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and Dr. Roy Boorady, director of the psychopharmacology service at the New York University Child Study Center in New York City, feel that parents have little to worry about when it comes to using these medications to treat ADHD in their children. Both point out that the medications cause psychotic episodes in children only very rarely and that less serious side effects such as loss of sleep and appetite are more common.
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