Do stimulant medications improve educational and behavioral outcomes for children with ADHD?

Janet Currie (a)∗, Mark Stabile (b), Lauren Jones (c)

(a) Princeton University and NBER, United States  (b) University of Toronto and NBER, Canada  (c) Cornell University, United States

Received 7 January 2014

Received in revised form 8 May 2014 Accepted 9 May 2014


We examine the effects of a policy change in the province of Quebec, Canada which greatly expanded insurance coverage for prescription medications. We show that the change was associated with a sharp increase in the use of stimulant medications commonly prescribed for ADHD in Quebec relative to the rest of Canada. We ask whether this increase in medication use was associated with improvements in emotional functioning or academic outcomes among children with ADHD. We find little evidence of improvement in either the medium or the long run. Our results are silent on the effects on optimal use of medication for ADHD, but suggest that expanding medication in a community setting had little positive benefit and may have had harmful effects given the average way these drugs are used in the community.