Scottish researchers conducted a population-based cohort study using linked data from 8 Scotland-wide databases (4 health databases and 4 education databases). They compared the health and educational outcomes of singleton children (ages 4-19 years) dispensed ADHD medications (methylphenidate, dexamphetamine, atomoxetine, or lisdexamphetamine) with that of children not given any of these medications.
Children who were dispensed ADHD medications were more likely to leave school prematurely, have more unauthorized absences, be excluded from school, perform poorly on examinations, require special education services, be unemployed after leaving school, and be hospitalized for injury. These poor outcomes were even more likely in those given ADHD medications and not identified as having special education needs.
The study did not specifically define individuals with a clinical diagnosis of ADHD; only whether they were given ADHD medications. Therefore, it is liely that not all children in the medication group had clinical ADHD, but were simply dispensed medications for symptoms mimicking ADHD (e.g. learning disorders, anxiety, other mental health issues, etc.). This may explain, in part, why those given medications without special education services had even worse outcomes. The results of the this study support the need for thorough diagnostic work-up of children with ADHD symptoms and comprehensive treatment of all of their strengths and weaknesses (above and beyond medications).