Ritalin and Its Uses

In recent years, more and more kids seem to be on a prescription drug
called Ritalin(methylphenidate). This drug is being handed out more and more by
doctors as a way of treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a complex
neurological impairnment that prevents kids from concentrating. According to
the Drug Enforcement Agency, it rose fron 200 grams per 100,000 people to over
1400 grams per 100,000 people in the last fifteen years. The National Institute
of Mental Health estimates that about one student in every classroom is believed
to experience the disorder. The rate of Ritalin use in the United States is at
least five times higher than in the rest of the world according to federal
studies. Are doctors just catching this disabling affliction more often? Or
does society just want a convenient way to solve a complicated problem.
Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant that is somewhat similar
to amphetamines. It was created in 1955, classified as a controlled substance
in 1971, and became the drug of choice for ADHD in 1981. It is also used in
treating narcolepsy. It is thought to activate the brain stem arousal system
and cortex, and, like cocaine, works on the neurotransmitter dopamine. It
appears to increase the levels of dopamine in the frontal lobe where attention
and impulsive actions are regulated. When taken in its intended form under a
doctor\'s prescritption, it has moderate stimulant properties. There has been a
great deal of concern about it\'s addictive qualities and adverse affects.
ADHD is a relatively new disorder. It was introduced in 1980, where it
was labeled ADD(attention deficit disorder). In the 1950\'s, children were
simply labeled "hyperkinetic." The term "hyperactivity" was added in 1987,
hence the name ADHD. Not all children have the hyperactivity, and thus are
labeled to have ADD. ADD is not treated with Ritalin; antidepressants are more
commonly used. One of the problems with the label ADHD is that just because a
child may be overly hyper, doesn\'t mean the child is not paying attention. The
problem is, the child is paying too much attention to too many things at the
same time.
ADHD is children\'s #1 childhood psychiatric disorder. The prevalence is
three times as likely in boys than girls. The children tend to be very bright,
but are poor students because they cna\'t settle down. They blurt questions out
before they are asked. They can\'t wait their turn, stop fidgeting their legs
and tapping their pencils. They tend to be forgetful, have problems following
directions, and lose things easily, as well as their tempers. This behavior
occurs constantly. This may be a reason why teachers and school psychologists
are adament in their beliefs; these kids are disrupting their classrooms, so
they want the problem solved immeditately, and take the "quick fix" approach.
Experts believe that more than two million children (3-5%) have the disorder.
Some scientists believe ADHD is a result of a problem in pregnancy
ranging from fetal alcohol syndrome to exposure to lead in utero. Others
suggest that ADHD is hereditary. Dr. Russel Barkley, of the University of
Minnesota reports that nearly half the ADHD children have a parent, and more
than one third have a sibling, with the disorder.
Ritalin as prescribed is taken orally, and takes effect in about 30
minutes and lasts for about 3-4 hours. Kids usually take 5-10 mg doses three
times a day. Although many experts report that Ritalin is a positive treatment
in 9 out of 10 patienst, and many parents and students claim the drug is a
benefit in their lives\', there are many who question the drug\'s long-term
effects, dangers, misdiagnosis, and non-medical abuse. Diagnosis for
ADHD isn\'t as easy as you think. There is no blood test, no x-ray, or no cat
scan to determine a biological cause for the disorder. Teachers, even in
preschool strongly advocate the drug(negative reinforcement???). School
psychologists are even prescribing the drug before giving an evaluation because
there are so many referrals and a lack of school psychologists (1:2100 students).
Many times, it has been shown, that psychiatrists who often diagnose for ADHD
in children, are disdiagnosing disorders similar to ADHD such as learning
disabilities, depression or anxiety disorders; disorders that do not
neccessitate Ritalin as a therapy. Some doctors who are reluctant to prescribe
Ritalin find that the childeren\'s parents just switch doctors and find doctors
who will. Unfortunately, this is surprisingly easy. Doctors surveyed by the
Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine said they send ADHD children home
in about an hour. The children are not only sent home with just a prescription,
but rarely any follow