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Is Ritalin the Answer to ADHD

The tousled brown hair that weaves so mischievously around his head may hint at the way he feels inside. He is seven-years-old and has already had to repeat a grade. He has an imagination that puts others to shame, but nothing seems to hold his attention for more than five minutes. He was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or what we call AD (H) D. This scene is all too familiar for individuals who discover that they, too, have this learning disorder as they progress from elementary school to college.

In today’s society we want a quick fix to remedy our problems. Therefore doctors are prescribing the drug, Ritalin, to control AD (H) D. Although Ritalin is a widely used drug to control AD (H) D, there are other safer alternatives to combat this worldwide disorder. Ritalin, like many other drugs, has several side effects-some of which are severe. Ritalin is in a class of drugs called Methylphetamines. These types of drugs (also called Central Nervous System or CNS stimulants) affect our central nervous system that controls everything from thought process to everyday breathing.

Ritalin’s major side effects influences the cardiovascular system (palpitation, tachycardia, and increased blood pressure), the central nervous system (psychosis, dizziness, headache, insomnia, tic syndromes, attacks of Gilles de la Tourette), gastrointestinal (anorexia, nausea), endocrine/metabolic system (weight loss, growth suppression). (What You Need To Know About Ritalin 1999) Also, Ritalin is a fairly new drug (introduced in the early eighties). It hasn’t been around long enough to study the long-term effects.

Since Ritalin is a Methylphetamine (closely related to the amphetamine family, such as cocaine), it has a high rate of abuse. In light of methylphenidate’s abuse liability, it is important to note the tremendous increase in availability of this substance and the expanded population (adolescents and adults) receiving prescriptions for the treatment of AD (H) D. For example, the production quota for methylphenidate has increased from 1,361 kg in 1985 to 10,410 kg in 1995 with the primary increases occurring in the last five years. (Ritalin 1996) This drug is abused in two ways.

One way is for recreational purposes. The abusers use the drug as a form of speed to pick themselves up. They feel that they need this in order to be alive and full of life. The other way this drug is abused is very different. Students are using Ritalin as a study aid. They take a pill (either orally, or by crushing it and snorting-much like cocaine, or they emulsify it in water and inject it like heroin) and cram for an exam. College today has become more competitive. Students feel a need to have an edge over the others. They feel that Ritalin gives them this edge.

Another danger is that since Ritalin is related to amphetamines, it has almost the same physiological effects. A users body will build a tolerance to the stimulant, therefore requiring more drugs to sustain the same level of abuse. This is very dangerous since the side effects on a normal dose are already dangerous; it has the potential for addiction and overdose. (Ritalin Nation 1997) Although there are many harmful side effects and social problems related to Ritalin, many advocates claim that Ritalin is a vital part of controlling AD (H) D. And in most cases Ritalin has shown proven results.

It does exactly what it was designed to do. The treatment of the disorder in adolescents and adults both show positive results. But before being put on such a harmful drug, parents and students should try using other alternatives before using Ritalin. Most doctors can’t accurately diagnose AD (H) D in a 20-30 minute visit. There are usually other factors that have to be considered but are often overlooked. There are ways a patient diagnosed with AD (H) D can overcome this disorder. Rather than taking Ritalin, a change in diet can have a big impact on ones attention.

Stress levels, like diet, can cause loss of attention, making it hard to concentrate. A change in study habits can also be very beneficial to someone having a difficult time concentrating. So by eating healthy, eliminating certain stressors, and finding a study habit that works for a person, he/she can overcome the disorder. (Ritalin Free Kids 1996) Ritalin only treats the symptoms of AD (H) D, not the disorder itself. And the symptoms will always be there, unless something is done about it. So unless he/she plans on taking this harmful drug for the rest of their life, changes will have to be made.

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