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What Are the Long-Term Effects of Stimulants for Adult ADHD?

I'm taking a stimulant for my adult ADHD. It's working great, but I'm concerned about the long-term effects of stimulants. Is it safe for adults to take stimulants on a long-term basis?

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There is no standard length of time that someone with adult ADHD should be on stimulant medication. It depends on each individual's situation and needs. Though studies have shown stimulants to be safe for short-term use (a year or two), more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of stimulant use in ADHD. As with any medical condition, the benefits and risks need to be considered when starting or continuing treatment.
Stimulants can have side effects, though they often decrease or disappear within a few months after starting the medication. Some of the effects that can occur with long-term stimulant use are:
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Slowed growth (in children; this is not a concern for adults)
  • Small increases in blood pressure and heart rate.
Appetite often returns to normal after a few weeks on the medicine, although this is not a significant concern for most adults, who wouldn't mind having a slightly decreased appetite and shedding a few pounds. The increases in blood pressure and heart rate may be a bigger concern, especially with increasing age and increasing risks for cardiovascular disease.
The key to handling side effects is to track changes. Make sure your healthcare provider checks your heart rate and blood pressure regularly, and perhaps even consider checking them yourself. Make sure to report any concerns to your healthcare provider. Make and keep regular appointments for physical examinations and to discuss continued treatment.
When stimulants are taken for a long time, the need for continued use should be evaluated at least every few years. While adults probably are less likely to outgrow ADHD compared to children, changes in life situations, work, coping abilities, and relationships may allow a person to be able to stop taking medications. In addition, your healthcare provider should evaluate at least yearly if continued stimulant use is still safe for you.
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