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Ritalin is a system stimulant for central nervous system whose effects are comparable to, but stronger than caffeine and less strong in relation to amphetamine. More frequently, Ritalin is used as a prescription for treating people, commonly children, diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) (Beal, 6). Consequently the drug has been abused since its inception, by being over-prescribed to children especially because of the stimulant effects it generates entailing: wakefulness, suppression of appetite, improved attentiveness and focus, and euphoria. This paper discusses the way Ritalin has been over-prescribed since its inception. Additional discussion will entail its failure to address the problem at hand, dangers of its abuse, potential future additions and probable unfamiliar medical risks.
Ritalin is methylphenidate prescription drug’s brand name. It is produced by many companies as a generic drug in laboratories. It belongs to class of compounds referred to as piperidine. Beal (9) observes that it contains levo-methylphenidate combination of other formulation and racemic dextro. Ritalin’s Chemical structure is as seen below.
Ritalin is most frequently prescribed for children diagnosed with ADHD or ADD. Quiet children in institutes have also been given this drug time and again. Psycho-stimulants, particularly Ritalin have commonly been used in children facing these conditions because of its being perceived as effective (Bromfield, 1). This has happened since its inception because of the parents’ ignorance concerning the danger they expose their children to. Worse still, its usage is rising day in day out. This rate can only be translated to mean that parents have totally left educational establishments, pharmaceutical companies and psychiatric industry to take control over the health of their children and over prescribing the drug.
According to Barron (50) statistics concerning the use of Ritalin reveal that only few people knew of Ritalin fifteen years ago as compared to toady where it is being regarded as the “diagnosis of choice”. Statistics indicate that in 1990 around 2 million children were administered with Ritalin and in 1996, six years later, this figure had more than doubled, shooting to 4.3 million. In a period not more than ten years, Ritalin use rose to about 600% and in some schools, the number of students being prescribed Ritalin daily is up to 40-50%. Reports from the Drug Enforcement Agency indicate that very frequently on weekly basis, 20% of students use this drug in some schools. This drug that has been in existence for just above 50 years has never stopped being controversial, the period running from 1995 to 1998 saw a massive increase in the use of antidepressant to 74% among children below 18 years, 151 % in children of 7-12 and among those below 6, it was 580 % (Barron, 43).
Reports from doctors show that, in most cases most doctors face intense pressure from parents to prescribe Ritalin for their children. Simply because children are showing sign of impulsivity, hyperactivity or inattentiveness does not necessary mean that they suffer from ADHD and should be administered with Ritalin (ADDers.org, 1). The problem in misdiagnosis occurs in most cases due to lack of doctors to establish the real issue. They just administer Ritalin subsequent to asking parents only one or two cursory questions.
Beal (15) points out that recent studies indicate that 8% of middle and elementary school children take Ritalin today; a number above the estimated 2-3% or 3-5% as calculated by Children and Adults with Attention Disorder. Children as young as 3-4 get tested for ADHD today because parents think that their children have ADHD when they hear of the symptoms. What they don’t understand is that there are other causes of the symptoms that were ruled out in the past before ADD or ADHD diagnosis was made. This therefore makes Ritalin to be administered wrongly to children when the mental health professionals or doctors are not careful.
The main aim of administering Ritalin to children is normally to treat ADD or ADHD symptoms which are dominantly inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The children suffering from this could be very active or docile, quickly upset, moody, irritable, restless among other characteristics (Barron, 48). On the contrary, Ritalin is a very addictive drug whose side effects are more or less the same as symptoms of ADD or ADHD. For instance, children taking it have been observed to be dizzy, irritable, violent, restless, experiencing nausea, having mood swings, etc. From this is clear that the use of Ritalin does not only bring about many problems but also amplify the magnitude of these symptoms. It therefore does not take care of what is supposed to treat.
According to Beal (7) it is so ironic that Ritalin causes the same problems it is supposed to treat if used on long term basis. It leads to memory problems, hyperactivity, attentional disturbances and irritability as observed above.
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Bromfield (1) observes that there are many people who abuse Ritalin by using it as a narcotic. As such, they could crush it make a powder and then snort it or swallow the tablet. Sometimes it is dissolved in water and the obtained mixture injected. This has been mostly associated with youngsters and young adults who use it for both recreational purposes and performance enhancement. This could be to suppress appetite (allow weight loss), improve attention and focus and increase wakefulness.
There is also danger associated with abusing Ritalin because complications arise when injecting as a method is used; small blood vessels could be blocked by insoluble fillers with the tablet. There are also chances of amplified heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. It also decreases appetite, which could result to malnutrition and its repercussions, and reduces sleep (Beal, 9).
Anyone who takes Ritalin devoid of any form of medical supervision faces high risk of future addiction. The most likely form of addiction comes about due to the fact that taking stimulants in routes and doses, as opposed to taking as per the doctor’s prescriptions, could induce a rapid increase in dopamine within the brain (ADDers.org, 1). Additionally, using Ritalin chronically creates a likelihood of emergence of withdrawal symptoms such as depression, disturbed patterns of sleep and fatigue if the drugs are stopped.
There are potential unknown medical risks associated with the use of Ritalin. There have been cases of deaths as a result of the use Ritalin. The period running from 1990 to 2000 saw 186 death reports from voluntary individuals, a figure that can be highly amplify if all cases were to be reported. Some other unknown risks include abnormal behavior (Barron, 41).
To sum up the whole discussion, there is controversy surrounding the use of Ritalin to treat ADHD/ADD among children. Statistics indicate that since its inception, the drug’s use has immensely increased in hospital and learning institutions leading to its over-prescription in children. There have also been many cases of misdiagnosis when it comes to the use of Ritalin. Ironically, studies indicate that long term use of this drug brings about the symptoms it is actually supposed to combat (Barron, 52). For instance, it leads to memory problems, hyperactivity, attentional disturbances and irritability.
Cases of abuse are also on the rise and addiction especially when Ritalin is being administered in absence of the doctors’ supervision is likely to occur. There is however danger linked to both abuse and addiction as looked at above. Lastly other unfamiliar medical risks arise such as deaths and abnormal behavior.