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Study: Ritalin May Help ADHD Moms Be Better Parents

Treatment with a long-acting form of methylphenidate, more familiar as Ritalin, can improve parenting by mothers with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, new research shows.

The findings stem from a study of 23 mothers who were randomly assigned to receive the long-acting drug called OROS methylphenidate or an inactive "placebo". The study lasted for 7 weeks.

Dr. Andrea Chronis-Tuscano of the University of Maryland in College Park and colleagues assessed mothers' ADHD symptoms and parenting skills as well as the side effects of medication before and after treatment. Women assigned to receive the active drug started out at a low dose, which was increased as tolerated.

OROS methylphenidate was better than placebo at improving ADHD symptoms and parenting behaviors, according to the study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Moreover, as the drug dose increased, the mothers' inattention and hyperactivity fell, as did their poor parenting behaviors, such as inconsistent discipline and use of corporal punishment.

"Mothers of children with ADHD are at 24-times increased risk of having the disorder themselves, and recent research shows that adult ADHD impairs parenting," Chronis-Tuscano said in an interview with Reuters Health. "However, no study until this one has examined whether medicating parents for their ADHD improves parenting."

Few side effects were observed during the study.

Noting that OROS methylphenidate worked better at combating ADHD symptoms than at improving parenting, Chronis-Tuscano said that there is likely "a need for behavioral interventions that target impairments in parenting among adults with ADHD."