Attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder drugs are becoming ever more common, both
legally prescribed to kids and illegally used as a study or work aid. Despite their popularity, however, drugs like Ritalin may not help in school at all, according to a new study.Looking at nearly 4,000 students in Quebec over an average of 11 years, the NBER study found that students who took ADHD drugs actually performed worse than students with similar symptoms who did not take the drugs.
Increasing drug use was associated with increased unhappiness, worse relationships with parents, increased anxiety and depression in girls, and worse educational attainment measures like grade advancement and maths scores, according to Princeton’s Janet Currie, the University of Toronto’s Mark Stabile, and Cornell’s Lauren E. Jones.
These findings were somewhat surprising given the drugs’ proven benefits in improving attention, focus, and self-control. Still, they coincide with other studies on educational, as discussed in the Wall Street Journal, supporting the idea that benefits somehow do not translate to the classroom.
This raises the question of whether the many side effects, including insomnia and increasing blood pressure, are worth it.
“The possibility that [medication] won’t help them [in school] needs to be acknowledged and needs to be closely monitored,” Currie tells the Journal.
The NBER study focused on people who actually have ADHD and are having trouble in school — the ones who should most benefit from using Ritalin. There’s even less evidence of cognitive benefits for people without the disorder who take ADHD medicine illegally.
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