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Preteen Ritalin May Increase Depression

Monday, 03 November 2008 16:49

Ritalin use in preteen children may lead to depression later in life, studies of rats suggest. It's an open question whether what passes for depression in lab rats has anything to do with depression in humans. But early use of Ritalin and other stimulant drugs seems to permanently alter animals' brains. That raises concerns that the same thing might be happening in children who take these drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The findings come from a research team led by William A. Carlezon Jr., PhD, director of the behavioral genetics laboratory at McLean Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. The study appears in the Dec. 15 issue of Biological Psychiatry.

"Rats exposed to Ritalin as juveniles showed large increases in learned-helplessness behavior during adulthood, suggesting a tendency toward depression," Carlezon says in a news release. "These rats also showed abnormally high levels of activity in familiar environments. [This] might reflect basic alterations in the way rats pay attention to their surroundings."