Thursday, March 03, 2005

Death from Ritalin

Death from Ritalin

Here is a letter I received recently.

Hi- I am concerned over the threat of death from taking Ritalin. I recently heard a report that over 150 children have died from taking this drug. These children were between the ages of 7 to 14. My daughter is only seven. Should I be concerned?

First of all, I understand your concern about the report of deaths due to Ritalin. The statistic that I heard was that 186 children died between 1990 and 2000. Though these deaths are not to be ignored, I would like to put the number in perspective.

There were 186 Ritalin related deaths in a ten-year period. In contrast there are 11 million prescriptions for Ritalin a year. If you divide the number of children who died from Ritalin by the number of annual prescriptions, that is 186/11,000,000= .000017. That means .0017% of children who take Ritalin are at risk for death.

Now I realize that this is not really an exact calculation. The real way to determine the exact death rate is to divide 186 by the number of people who took Ritalin during the last decade. I couldn't find any data on this. The point is that whatever the death rate is, it is very small. It is probably more likely for a child to die from a Tylenol overdose than to die from Ritalin use.

If you have an ADD ADHD child and Ritalin is helping, then I feel that benefits she gets from taking a drug like Ritalin far outweigh the risk of death from the drug. The bottom line is that no parent wants her child on Ritalin or some similar drug. However, if the child needs it, you as a parent should not worry that your child will be the one child in 60,000 that has a serious problem.

Anthony Kane, MD

ADD ADHD Advances

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