Do ADHD medications like Ritalin and Adderall increase the risk of suicide?

Health Canada: ADHD Drugs To Come With Suicide Warning, Includes Adderall XR, Ritalin, Concerta

Health Canada announced Monday that several Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medications will come labeled with stronger warnings including increased risks of suicide, based on reports of suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts in association with the medications, according to the Canadian regulatory body. The new warning that has been issued is based on a small number of completed suicide reports, and reports of suicidal thoughts. While Health Canada affirms that, overall, the “benefits of these drugs in the effective management of ADHD continue to outweigh their risks,” the regulatory agency said that several ADHD medications may contribute to the risk of suicide.

These medications will join the ADHD drug, Strattera (atomoxetine), which already contained a warning about the drug potentially contributing to suicide risks. This ADHD medication’s monograph or prescribing information began carrying the warning about suicide in 2005, according to the CBC.

“New information has emerged since to suggest that the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours may apply to all other ADHD drugs,” Health Canada said in a press release. Research has yet to prove a causal relationship between the ADHD medications and suicide risks, but patients with ADHD might have an increased risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts, according to the CBC. It is also possible that other mental health conditions are likely to be associated with ADHD symptoms.

In Canada, the ADHD drugs that will carry the new warning to be on the look-out for suicidal behavior and thoughts is available only by prescription to patients older than six-years-old. The list of ADHD medications that will contain the new warning about potential risks for suicide are listed below, as provided by Health Canada.

  • Adderall XR (mixed salts amphetamine extended-release)
  • Biphentin (methylphenidate controlled release)
  • Concerta (methylphenidate extended release)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine sulfate)
  • Intuniv XR (guanfacine extended release)
  • Ritalin (methylphenidate)
  • Ritalin SR (methylphenidate extended release)
  • Strattera (atomoxetine)
  • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate)

Earlier in March, Medical News Today reported that about one in six college students misuse ADHD medication in the United States, because many students wrongfully believe that ADHD drugs, such as Adderall XR, will improve their ability to learn.

“According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there is a growing belief that ADHD medication can improve an individual’s ability to learn. However, despite the drugs promoting wakefulness, no studies have found that they improve learning or thinking ability when taken by people who do not have ADHD.”

According to a report in Pediatric Annals, ADHD is the most common neurobehavioral disorder of childhood and it affects up to 10 percent of children in the United States. Some parents have turned to elimination diets to address their children’s ADHD symptoms, under the supervision of their children’s pediatricians, according to the Feingold Association, which asserts that artificial food dye is one of the foods that seems to exacerbate ADHD symptoms most frequently. A study in the journal Neurotherapeutics found that while artificial food dye is not necessarily causing ADHD, the coloring seems to add to behavioral problems. In the U.K., foods that include certain artificial food dyes or sodium benzoate must carry a warning stating that they “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children,” according to the U.K. Food Standards Agency. A Purdue Study from last year called artificial food coloring potential neurotoxins that could be triggering ADHD symptoms.

Still, many doctors believe that some ADHD sufferers absolutely require medication to manage their symptoms.

Health Canada suggested in a press release that patients and the parents of patients taking ADHD, as well as friends and family members of ADHD patients being treated with ADHD medications included on the list, should monitor the individuals for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, even if the thoughts of suicide come after ADHD drug therapy is no longer occurring, because some of the reports of suicide-related activities involve problems that occur while changing medication or getting off of the ADHD medication. Health Canada says that suicide risks were seen at all stages of the treatment in some people in correlation with ADHD drug therapy. People who have a family history or personal history with psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression, suicide or other mental health concerns should discuss these issues with their doctor and pharmacist, the health regulatory body’s warning stated.

Any side effects noticed from taking ADHD medications should be immediately reported to the prescribing physician. Additionally, in Canada, any possible side effects should be reported to MedEffect Canada using their online Adverse Reaction Reporting system. In the United States, possible side effects should be reported to the FDA using FAERS.

Do you or anyone you know take any of these ADHD medications and are you concerned about the potential increased suicide risks Health Canada is warning the Canadian populous about?

[Photo via Pixabay]