Slowing of growth in height and weight on stimulants: a characteristic pattern

J Paediatr Child Health. 2003 Apr;39(3):180-5. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1754.2003.00107.x.


Objective: The aims of the present study were to describe the growth pattern of children starting stimulant medication and to analyse the changes over time in height, weight and height velocity in a cohort of treated patients.

Methods: Retrospective review of growth data from files of all newly treated patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in one paediatric practice. Forty-four boys and seven girls were treated for 6-42 months with either dexam-phetamine (n = 32) or methylphenidate (n = 19).

Results: During the first 6 months on stimulant medication 44 children (86%) had a height velocity below the age-corrected mean and there was weight loss in 39 (76%). The height and weight standard deviation score (SDS) showed a progressive decline that was statistically significant after 6 and 18 months (P < 0.001, paired t-test). The height velocity was significantly attenuated for the first 30 months (P < 0.01), being lowest during the first 6 months. The mean height deficit during the first 2 years was approximately 1 cm/year. The change in weight SDS was 2.4 times the change in height SDS after 30 months on treatment with a significant correlation (Pearson's correlation coefficient r = 0.88, P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Stimulant medication is associated with a decrease in height and weight SDS during the first 6-30 months with a characteristic pattern on the growth chart.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Body Height / drug effects*
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child Development / drug effects
  • Child Development / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dextroamphetamine / adverse effects
  • Dextroamphetamine / therapeutic use
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Growth Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Growth Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate / adverse effects
  • Methylphenidate / therapeutic use
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Probability
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Distribution


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methylphenidate
  • Dextroamphetamine