Journalism Science

No, sorry. Acetaminophen is not “tied” to ADHD.

Here we go again. Another study comes out and another round of sloppy journalism puts out crap content that scares everybody and informs no one.

Researchers studied 64,000 pregnant women, over half of whom took acetaminophen during their pregnancies. The researchers then followed up with the children those women gave birth too, looking for signs of ADHD. The results?

They found that children of women who had taken acetaminophen were 13 percent more likely to have ADHD-like behaviors by age 7, including issues with attention span and temper. Those same children had a 30 percent greater chance of requiring the use of an ADHD medication. Additionally, the further into pregnancy and the longer the duration for which the woman took acetaminophen, the greater the risk.

Let’s break that down, shall we?

64,000 women took part in the study. About half of them – let’s guestimate 34,000 to be generous – actually took acetaminophen. Out of the resulting children, 13 percent had ADHD-like symptoms, which is different than saying they have ADHD. Out of these, as many as 30 percent of those children might require medication later in life.

In other words, out of 64,000 births, there might be 1326 kids in need of ADHD medication. Maybe, or maybe not. Based on a single study.

To be clear, it isn’t that the study’s findings aren’t significant. They are, from a scientific point of view. They make the case for further study. UCLA’s press room released a more detailed explanation of the study here, which is worth a read.

But to say acetaminophen is “tied” to ADHD presumes a level of certainty that is entirely absent from the facts of the case. Neither are these two things “linked,” as the L.A. Times chose to express it.

There are still people out there refusing to give their kids immunizations based on thoroughly discredited science from the 90’s. Please, let’s not start another ugly rumor for the sake of headlines.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.