Is Acetaminophen Linked to ADHD?

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

It’s estimated that between 5%-10% of school children suffer from ADHD1 (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

It affects more boys than girls and is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Researchers actually found a link between acetaminophen (also known as Tylenol) use during pregnancy and ADHD disorders in children.

This is surprising and concerning, especially since doctors recommend it for pain during pregnancy.

Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy Increased ADHD Risk

Researchers analyzed data from the Danish National Birth Cohort. The sample size included over 64,000 mothers and their children. Telephone interviews were conducted to obtain information on acetaminophen use during pregnancy and 6 months afterwards. The children in the study were born between 1996 and 2002.

More than half of the mothers reported taking acetaminophen during their pregnancy. This was found to increase the risk of ADHD-like behaviors by 13%, the use of ADHD medications by 29%, and the risk for hyperkinetic disorder by 37% - a severe form of ADHD.2 The associations were stronger for mothers who used acetaminophen for more than one trimester.

Infections during pregnancy or the state of a mother’s mental health problems were not found to significantly influence the results.

Acetaminophen Isn't Exactly the Safest Drug

The researchers aren't exactly sure how acetaminophen is linked to ADHD. It’s believed to disrupt hormone synthesis, an effect that may alter the normal development of a fetus’ brain.

Acetaminophen is considered “safe” to use during pregnancy to relieve fever and pains. It’s favored over other pain relievers like aspirin, which is not recommended during pregnancy.

Previous research shows acetaminophen is not a harmless drug. When used in excessive doses, it’s been linked to liver failure and even death. Acetaminophen depletes glutathione, a key antioxidant in the body.

Alternatives to Acetaminophen for Pain Relief

While the Danish study does not conclusively draw a link between acetaminophen use and ADHD, it’s definitely something to think about. For pain relief, pregnant women may want to consider alternatives.

Women suffering from back pain, a common pregnancy complaint, should take certain precautions such as wearing flat shoes, practicing good posture, and avoiding lifting heavy objects. The use of a maternity support belt may also help.

To prevent migraines, pregnant women may want to consider eating frequent small meals, doing light exercise, and keeping a consistent sleep schedule. Biofeedback techniques, in which a person learns to take conscious control of the body, may be of further support.

Applying cold ice to the front of the neck rather than to the forehead may help to alleviate migraine pain.

References:

  1. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2000 Jul;9(3):541-55.
  2. JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Feb 24.

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Further research on the link between Acetaminophen and ADHD from the Journal of Restorative Medicine: http://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/home/eng/Acetaminophen.asp

Life Extension said...

Anonymous - Thanks for the link!

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Life Extension said...

Obgyn mountain view, ca - Thanks! We appreciate the feedback.

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