ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Medication

ADHD, Children and Medication

Are we over-prescribing ritalin and similar drugs to our children? One study, Are Stimulants Overprescribed? Treatment of ADHD in Four U.S. Communities, found that 5.1% of children would fully meet the criteria for ADHD. Of which, only 12.5% of children were receiving medication. They concluded

Medication treatments are often not used in treating ADHD children … suggesting the need for better education of parents, physicians, and mental health professionals about the effectiveness of these treatments

The results of the study suggest that there are over three million children and teenagers who have ADHD. Of which just under 400,000 are using prescription medicine. Depending on the type of drug therapy used, costs range from $41 (Ritalin) to $94 (Strattera) for a month supply. But for how long do these drugs have to be taken? The drugs are not design to treat or cure ADHD, they simply reduce the symptoms. In some children this respite from symptoms may give them the time to normalise their behavior so they can remain in control after they stop taking the drugs. However the majority of children face a long-term dependency on these drugs that will carry on through college, university and into the work place. There is very little research on long-term usage of methylphenidate based drugs like Ritalin but a study earlier this year found evidence that it is a carcinogen. This study was too small to give definate answers so futher study is need.

In addition to any direct health risks, there is contradictory evidence on whether Ritalin users face a higher risk of drug abuse, either illegal drugs or legal ones such as smoking or alcohol. An article on covers two different studies. The first showed a risk:

Childhood use of [Central Nervous System] stimulant treatment is significantly and pervasively implicated in the uptake of regular smoking, in daily smoking in adulthood, in cocaine dependence, and lifetime use or abuse of cocaine and stimulants. The severity of ADHD and early onset of tobacco use are significant risk factors for adult use and dependence on substances with stimulant properties, namely tobacco, cocaine, and stimulants.

However the other study found:

Treating the underlying disorder, even if with stimulants, significantly reduces the probability they will use drugs later on

The rise of stimulant usage for ADD / ADHD (its currently a $2.7 billion industry) has an effect on non-sufferers. There is rising concern over the non-prescribed use of ritalin and other stimulants by college and university students. A study, Non-medical use of prescription stimulants among US college students: prevalence and correlates from a national survey found about 5% of students had used prescription stimulants illegally. (See also Ritalin, Use and Abuse [PDF]).
A straw poll conducted in forum for students with ADD / ADHD revealed that many had used stimulants for some years and foresaw using them indefinitely. There was some concern over the long-term effects but generally the ability to overcome their ADD / ADHD symptoms was far more important than any long-term health risks. About half reported that they had been approached by others asking for some tablets.

So are we over-prescribing ritalin and similar drugs to our children? There is no easy answer. Spending $2.7 billion on drugs that do not treat the underlying problem is worrying. So are the questions of the long-term health risks and the rise of the stimulant-usage culture in schools. Yet. for the most part, the people who take the drugs are happy to escape from damage done by ADD / ADHD, regardless of the cost to their finances or health.


  1. michael hammond

    The pharmaceutical industry makes billions of dollars drugging school children. They employ “experts” and lobbyist and hire ex FDA personnel and retired congressman to get pro-drug legislation passed. Newspapers and magazines receive billions of dollars a year in advertising, so it would be a rare article indeed that went against Big Pharma. Is the industry motivated by the desire to help? Or is it motivated by the bottom line? You be the judge. Please read the following facts and do your own research. Regards Michael Hammond

    1) 6 million US school children are on Anti-depressant drugs prescribed to handle “disorders” created by the pharmaceutical industry to sell the drugs.( up by more than 1000% from ten years ago).
    2) Ritalin is a form of amphetamine that is recommended by school psychologist to treat ADD, ADHD or any of many “disorders”.
    4) ‘In an explosive admission, American psychiatric Association President, Steven Sharfstein, did a 180-degree turnaround from his TODAY show
    interview (June 27) and admitted that there is no way to test for a “chemical imbalance” as the cause for mental disorders. PEOPLE magazine”
    5) In the case of Ritalin, a drug widely prescribed to children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), the ‘bible’ of the psychiatric profession, the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, 3rd Edition, Revised (1987), states “suicide is the major complication” of Methylphenidate (Ritalin) withdrawal (1987: 136, 175). Furthermore, the Australian Drug Guide (1991) , a doctors manual, states the “habit forming potential” of Ritalin as “high”. In other words, it is addictive, creating long-term patients (and profits).
    6) At an FDA hearing on the safety of psychotropic drugs on Feb 2, 2004, dozens of tortured parents testified that their children had committed suicide or other violent acts after being prescribed the same drugs that are being marketed in the Bush-backed pharmaceutical industry schemes aimed at recruiting the nations 52 million school children as customers.
    7) June 7, 2005—On January 1, 2001, Laurie Flynn joined the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, and became the top dog for marketing the TeenScreen program, which is nothing but a clever tool invented to recruit children in public schools as customers for the pharmaceutical companies.
    9) The recent finding that Ritalin can cause cancer in some animals was not taken seriously enough by the drug company or the FDA.
    10) •Ritalin and amphetamine have almost identical adverse effects on the brain, mind and behavior, including the production of drug-induced behavioral disorders, psychosis, mania, drug abuse, and addiction.
    11) •Ritalin is addictive and can become a gateway drug to other addictions. It is a common drug of abuse among children and adults.
    12) Short-term, Ritalin has no positive effect on a child’s psychology or on academic performance and achievement. This is confirmed by innumerable studies and by many professional reviews of the literature.
    13) •The U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) push Ritalin as vigorously as the manufacturer of the drug, often in even more glowing terms than the drug company could get away with legally.

  2. Someone

    If you don’t have ADD, you have no idea how well some of these medications work. BTW, Straterra is a non-stimulant and WITH health insurance,which you need to get it perscribed in the first place, only costs the consumer 10.00 to 15.00 a month. Ritalin is an older medication just like Thorazine. There are new, better ones that change people’s lives for the better.

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