The parents of six year old James Patrick Smith receive a phone call
from the school guidance counselor informing them of their child\'s recent
hyperactive behavior. After a short conference, the guidance counselor suggests
to the parents a solution for young James\' problem; as a result, the family
visits their family doctor and the doctor diagnoses James with Attention Deficit
Disorder (ADD) during a one hour appointment. To remedy the disorder, the doctor
prescribes the "savior drug" for ADD patients; children are almost always fed
the drug Ritalin, a prescription medicine that packs a strong euphoric punch
(Machan 151). The preceding hypothetical situation commonly occurs in the
United States at a growing rate which may be too fast for the nation to contain.
The over-prescription of the drug Ritalin to correct ADD produces many negative
side effects upon patients and society.
In the vast market of prescription drugs, Ritalin, one of the most
highly used drugs, also carries with it some of the greatest medical drawbacks.
ADD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) stands tall as America\'s
number one psychiatric disorder (Hancock 52). Estimates suggest that more than
two million children live with the disorder; in addition, according to Dr.
Daniel Safer of Johns Hopkins University, over 1.3 million regularly consume
Ritalin for treatment of ADD (Hancock 52). Ritalin appears to be a popular
choice for doctors, but the daily effects of the drug, which family physicians
do not see, creates questions as to how well the drug actually works.
Scientifically know as methylphenidate, Ritalin stimulates the central nervous
system with similarities to amphetamines in the nature and extent of its
effects; furthermore, it supposedly activates the brain stem arousal system and
the cerebral cortex (Bailey 3). The key factor remains that doctors and
researchers are not sure of what precisely occurs when Ritalin invades the human
body. Hancock notes that no definite long-term studies exist to assure parents
that Ritalin does not cause more or less havoc in their child, nor does any
disease accompany prolonged usage (52). Testing results released by the Federal
Drug Administration (FDA) in February 1996, show a study of mice in which a rare
form of liver cancer arose as a result of Ritalin; however, the FDA still
regards Ritalin as "safe and effective" (Hancock 56). Offering almost as many
side effects as the number of people who take the drug, Ritalin alters many
different aspects of the body. Just a few symptoms cited by Bailey include:
nervousness, insomnia, loss of appetite, dizziness, heart palpitations,
headaches, extreme weight loss, skin rashes, possible psychotic episodes, and
severe withdrawals (3). Most physicians would not admit to being blind about
the true consequences of Ritalin, and most families never receive the needed
information to make an educated decision about Ritalin whether or not to take
the drug.
To be a potent drug with many numerous physical effects, Ritalin is not
respected by doctors who spend only a short amount of time with patients before
prescribing the "wonder drug" as treatment. Findings of a recent survey by the
Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, report that almost half of the
pediatricians surveyed said they send ADD/ADHD children home within a hour
(Hancock 52). Time appears to be on the side of the doctors which leaves
patients and their families holding a possible "time bomb" of Ritalin. With
assembly line-like characteristics, physicians turn patients in one door and out
the other without conversing with teachers, reviewing a child\'s educational
level, nor doing psychological evaluations (Hancock 52). After children use all
the Ritalin given with one prescription, new prescriptions are required for
additional doses (Bailey 5). Doctors as well as pharmacies benefit monetarily
from the constant appointments to the doctor and the many prescriptions
respectively, for a drug that may be doing more harm than good. No X-ray, blood
scan, or CT scan determines who does or does not need Ritalin (Hancock 52).
Hancock states that prescribing Ritalin has become more of an art form rather
than a scientific method (52). Physicians hand out Ritalin without proper
research and examination of each individual.
Using Ritalin creates psychological changes in addition to the medical
effects which become evident. Throughout life every person loses concentration
or does not pay attention to the present situation; however, if ADD was based
upon the individual occurrences that all humans experience, then the entire
world would be diagnosed with ADD and consuming Ritalin. Citing the main
criticism of Ritalin, Hancock states the drug is simply a quick fix for children
living in an impatient world (52). "It takes more time for parents and teachers
to sit down and talk to