Press release

Global study confirms long-term safety of most used ADHD medication

Published on 4 April 2023

An international study involving hundreds of Dundee children has found that the most frequently prescribed medication for the treatment of ADHD in children and adolescents is safe to use long-term

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Methylphenidate was rejected by the World Health Organization (WHO) for inclusion in their Essential Medicines List due to concerns regarding the quality and limitations of the available evidence for both benefit and harm.

However, the Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder-Drugs-Use-Chronic-Effects (ADDUCE) project has revealed that methylphenidate does not increase the risk of growth impairments, psychiatric or neurological adverse events in children and adolescents.

The two-year study, which was originally run from the University of Dundee, included 1410 children from 27 child and adolescent mental health centres in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Hungary. This included more than 270 from Dundee, who were enrolled in the Child and Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and Ninewells Hospital.

The study findings have been published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Dr Sarah Inglis, from the University’s School of Medicine, who was the project/trial manager for the ADDUCE study, said, “The use of methylphenidate has gone up greatly since it was licensed in the 1950s and yet information about side effects from long-term use is scarce.

“We observed the characteristics of a large number of children with ADHD across Europe, including 274 from Dundee, taking methylphenidate over a period of two years. We compared these characteristics with children with ADHD not taking methylphenidate, and with children without ADHD.

“The study shows that the growth rate of children taking methylphenidate over two years was not different to that of children who were not. There was no adverse effect on mental health.

“WHO has previously rejected calls for methylphenidate to be included in their Essential Medicines List due to ‘concerns regarding the quality and limitations of the available evidence for both benefit and harm’. The results of the ADDUCE study provide supportive evidence for inclusion of methylphenidate on this list, which would increase the availability of the medicine and support more children around the world with ADHD.”

Dundee is part of the ADDUCE Consortium alongside several partner universities and institutions around the world, including the University College London, the University of Hong Kong and the University of Melbourne.


Jessica Rorke

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 388878
Story category Public interest, Research, Staff