The Dangers of Using Ritalin and Other Stimulant Medications for the Treatment of ADD/ADHD

“America now uses 90% of the world’s Ritalin – more than five times the rest of the world combined.” – Peter Breggin, M.D, Talking Back to Ritalin • Current statistics indicate that as many as 10% of the nation’s children have been diagnosed as having ADD/ADHD. • More than five million children are taking Ritalin or another stimulant medication for the treatment of ADD/ADHD. • Hundreds of children every year receive, or take, doses of stimulant medications that are too high, resulting in overdose. • Children aged six through nine are at the greatest risk for overdose. As school officials, medical professionals, and other caretakers pressure parents to put their children on medication for the management of ADD/ADHD, few take the time to inform parents what the use of stimulant medications as a daily maintenance medication entails. Stimulant medications such as Ritalin, when given to children, are far more dangerous than parents are being led to believe. Stimulant medications produce far more than mere side effects, they endanger the lives of children by producing a host of dangerous health problems and risks by damaging the functioning of the cardiovascular system, central nervous system, gastrointestinal system, and more. These dangers include: Cardiovascular System Rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, and heart attack. Central Nervous System Altered mental status, hallucinations, convulsions, seizures, convulsions, depression, excitement, agitation, irritation, anxiety, nervousness, hostility, nervousness, compulsive behavior, tics, jerky movements, tourette’s, drowsiness, confusion, lack of sleep, unhappiness, depression, over-sensitivity, decreased social interest, zombie-like mannerisms, impaired mental abilities. Gastrointestinal Eating disorders, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, and cramps, dry mouth, constipation, growth problems, and endocrine and metabolic disorders. Other Blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, excessive sweating, incontinence, fever, joint pain, blood disorders, rash, conjunctivitis, hives, skin inflammation, and hair loss. Withdrawal and Rebound Worsening of symptoms, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, irritability, over-activity, and stimulant “crash”. Ritalin may be more potent than cocaine! Although in pill form, Ritalin does not produce the immediate stimulant effects as cocaine, addicts that crush and inject Ritalin have found the “rush” to be just as pleasant. One European study found that, even though encapsulated Ritalin (pill form) didn’t produce an immediate rush, once metabolized, the drug occupies more dopamine receptors than cocaine does. In essence, Ritalin has more of an effect on brain receptors than cocaine. An article published in the New York Times asks the questions “Is it appropriate, ethicists and pediatricians ask, to medicate children without a clear diagnosis in the hope that they will do better in school? Should the drug be given to adults who may complain that they are failing in their careers or are procrastinators? Are the ends worthy of the means?” And an article published in the January 2005 issue of Pediatrics stated, “There remain large discrepancies between pediatricians’ practice patterns and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines for the assessment and treatment of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” If the medical community can’t come to a consensus regarding how to diagnose ADD/ADHD, then why are they making across-the-board decisions as to how to treat individuals who have been diagnosed with the disorder?   In light of the growing controversy surrounding the diagnosis, and increasing misdiagnosis, of ADD/ADHD and the questionable administration of stimulant medications as a form of treatment, it is wise to proceed with caution whenever symptoms might lead to such a diagnosis. Some good rules to follow whenever ADD/ADHD might be suspected are: • Never assume that ADD/ADHD is the correct diagnosis. Never insist that a medical professional issue a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD on observations alone. • Never accept a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD on face value alone. A diagnosis that has been delivered without eliminating the possibility of another disorder, nutritional imbalance, or food allergies and sensitivities is not a real diagnosis. A real diagnosis never involves a lets-try-this-medication-and-see-if-it-helps approach. • If ADD/ADHD does indeed appear to be the appropriate diagnosis, never automatically administer maintenance medications such as stimulants without exploring other possibilities first. The side effects and dangers involved in administering ADD/ADHD medications, especially to a child, are just far too great to take the risk. • Never fall for the quick fix. Any fad diagnosis that causes society to turn immediately and without question to the latest popular solution that offers a quick fix – in this case, stimulant medications – should be suspect. An educated individual is one who is best able to make intelligent decisions regarding his or her own medical treatment, or regarding the treatment of children.