Could Your Child’s ADHD Medication Be Making Them Fat?

Playing Are Alternative ADHD Drugs Causing Obesity in Kids?

The Doctors discuss a new study by Florida Atlantic University and Washington University that claims that for children who are overweight and using alternative medications for their ADHD, those alternative drugs may be partly to blame if they’re dealing with obesity. 

Watch: More Kids are on Psychiatric Drugs than Ever

ER physician Dr. Travis Stork notes that the study is referring to “alternative drugs,” and psychiatrist Dr. Domenick Sportelli shares that these antipsychotics should not be used as the first line for ADHD and if they are used as an adjunct, the child needs to be monitored really closely for side effects. He explains these antipsychotics are notorious for metabolic syndrome. This syndrome increases blood sugar, cholesterol and weight gain. 

Dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra explains in this study, one-third of the children started out overweight and after three months, 47% were overweight. Dr. Sportelli adds even in clinical settings they see an enormous amount of weight gain with these drugs.

Dr. Travis advises parents to see a specialist if their child’s pediatrician recommends one of these alternative medications. Dr. Sportelli wants parents to know there are other options to get a child with ADHD’s impulsivity and behavioral issues under control. There are psychotherapeutic options such as behavioral modification therapy, parent/child interaction training and applied behavioral analysis that may help to get a child to behave better. Dr. Sportelli says this is definitely the way to go before jumping to medication. 

Dr. Batra adds that there is that knee-jerk reaction to prescribe and research supports that. Prescriptions of antipsychotics for ADHD have gone up 600% since the 1990s. Dr. Batra says you have to think about alternate therapies especially when these drugs have so many side effects.

Watch: How Should Parents Manage a Child's Weight?

Dr. Travis adds that a child’s environment can bring on their propensity for these negative types of behavior which includes the food your child eats. If the child is eating poorly and then prescribed drugs, he says “You are taking a problem that could potentially be resolved, these impulsive behaviors, and potentially creating a life-long problem of metabolic syndrome and long-term issues with diabetes and heart disease, and that’s a really troubling thing.” Both Dr. Travis and Dr. Sportelli want parents to know these drugs are not a quick fix.