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Methylphenidate in Childhood Predicts Later Antidepressant Use

April 04, 2019

Children with high adherence to methylphenidate-based medications for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are significantly more likely to be prescribed antidepressants during adolescence, according to a study published online in European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

The 12-year prospective cohort study spanned 6830 young patients with ADHD in Israel. Researchers included children first prescribed methylphenidate between the ages of 6 and 8 and gauged adherence through age 12 by tracking how many months the prescribed medication was purchased.

Children with high adherence, researchers reported, had a 50% higher likelihood of receiving antidepressant prescriptions between the ages of 12 and 18, after controlling for other comorbid psychiatric conditions as well as parental use of antidepressants.

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“Parents, doctors, and teachers should be aware that prolonged consumption of methylphenidate-based medications beginning at these ages can be a predictor of subsequent use of antidepressants,” said study leader Nir Madjar, PhD, of Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel. “Our findings highlight the importance of systematic follow-up for all children who initiated methylphenidate treatment before the age of 8 and persisted in their treatment.”

Antidepressant prescriptions in adolescence may reflect a continuation of the underlying emotional and behavioral dysregulation present in the patients during childhood, Dr. Madjar and colleagues wrote.

—Jolynn Tumolo


Madjar N, Shlosberg D, Leventer-Roberts M, et al. Childhood methylphenidate adherence as a predictor of antidepressants use during adolescence. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2019 March 4;[Epub ahead of print].

Childhood methylphenidate treatment predicts antidepressant use during adolescence [press release]. Ramat Gan, Israel: Bar-Ilan University; March 28, 2019.

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