Can ADHD Meds Boost Grades?

What the long-term data reveal may surprise you

Reported in the Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323368704578593660384362292.html

In June, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a study that examined ADHD medication usage over 11 years and the educational outcomes of nearly 4,000 students in Quebec. The researchers found that boys who took ADHD drugs actually performed worse in school than those with a similar number of symptoms who didn’t take meds.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The possibility that [medication] won’t help them [in school] needs to be acknowledged and needs to be closely monitored,” says economics professor Janet Currie, an author on the paper and director of the Center for Health & Wellbeing, a health policy institute at Princeton University. Kids may not get the right dose to see sustained benefits, or they may stop taking the medication because side effects or other drawbacks outweigh the benefits, she says.

A central question puzzles those researching ADHD: If its drugs demonstrably improve attention, focus and self-control, why wouldn’t grades improve as well?

The medication’s ability to improve concentration and attention may even backfire when it comes to studying.

Martha Farah, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania who sits on the American Academy of Neurology committee that is drafting new treatment guidelines, recalls a student saying that after she takes her medication, she heads to the library. If she keeps her head down and studies, she gets very absorbed in her work and accomplishes a tremendous amount. But if a friend stops by, she becomes equally engrossed in the chat. Many students report they find themselves absorbed in cleaning their rooms rather than studying.

The National Bureau of Economic Research is a non-profit organization without any agenda on ADHD.