Children using stimulant medications may be at risk for lower bone density Interview with:
Alexis Jamie Feuer MD
Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
Weill Cornell Medical College What is the background for this study?

Response: Osteoporosis is a debilitating disorder characterized by low bone density and increased risk of fractures. Adolescence and young adulthood are critically important times for accruing peak bone density and failure to obtain adequate bone mass by early adulthood may result in future osteoporosis. In children, the use of certain medications can lead to a decrement in the acquisition of bone mass. Past studies have shown that stimulant medications, such as those used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), may slow the rate of linear growth in children. To date, little research has been done to see what effects stimulant use may have on bone density and bone accrual in children. Stimulants exert their effects via activation of the sympathetic nervous system, and as there is mounting evidence that indicates the sympathetic nervous system plays a critical role in the acquisition of bone density, we sought to determine if there is any association between stimulant medication use and bone mass in the pediatric population. What are the main findings?

Response: Our study examines the association between stimulant medications and bone density in pediatric subjects using U.S. population data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Our results reveal that children and adolescents reporting stimulant use had lower DXA measurements of the lumbar spine and femur compared with nonusers. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Children and adolescents using stimulant medications may be at risk for lower bone density and should have regular screening by their pediatricians for bone health. This screening would include assessment of linear growth rate, vitamin D level, dietary calcium intake and amount of weight-bearing exercise completed daily. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Prospective studies are needed to confirm our findings and to determine future fracture risk. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: It is of great importance to clarify the effects of stimulant medications on the growing skeleton as more than 6 million children in the U.S. are affected by ADHD and stimulants are the first line pharmacotherapies. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on October 6, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD