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

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“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.

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

  1. Catherine Lewallen September 10, 2008 at 3:22 pm #

    I cannot wait to get my son off of Adderall XR. I am very nervous for it does help him in school, but he is no longer interested in sports or social activities 2 years ago he was MVP and allstar in all of his sports he could not wait to play he now could care less…he has very little emotion anymore alot of the time he is like a zombie…I miss my energetic athletic loving little boy. He has been on Adderall for 2 years and I feel like a horrible parent that I am just now linking all of this together. It took us two years to even consider medicating him, the schools and dr. all wanted us to medicate him but we would not do it. I tried so many different things and this was our last resort. I have not recvd my book yet, and am not sure if I still give him the adderall when I start this or what. I have brought up these side effects to his dr. and he just questions if his grades are better than what more do we want…I want my son back.

  2. fabiola rodiles October 8, 2008 at 9:11 pm #

    Hi, I agree with you. I was given my son 7 year old son ritalin and risperdal at the same time, he is very moody. He was a zombie at school, he lost interest in his P.E. class, he stopped participating in class and went into a great depression. I stopped giving it to him 2 weeks ago. The first week he was terrible, even worst than without the medication, but now he is better. Yes, they are a challenge but I rather deal with him now, I have muy fun and loving child back. I believe that with behavioral therapy which he begins next and supplement vitamins he is going to be better. I encourage you to stop giving your child aderral. Our kids deserve better!! It is a challenge but it will all be worth it. Good Luck to you and your family. God bless you.

  3. Catherine Trammell December 20, 2008 at 12:13 am #

    Don’t Medicate With Alcohol and Drugs
    This Holiday Season!
    Guess what the busiest month is in mental health treatment nationwide – January! Wonder why? For many, the holidays include a visit from “the ghost of Christmas past” who brings a tray full of unpleasant memories and unrealized expectations.

    Sometimes we set ourselves up to fail during the holidays, thinking that for some magical reason this year will be different, when we’ve done nothing to change difficult family and relationship problems. It’s easy to slip into the “comfort zone” of overeating, isolating and abusing alcohol and drugs.

    Unfortunately, the temporary relief provided by indulging wears off fast and leaves you feeling worse. And, the damage you do to your brain sets the stage for repeated failure. Here are a few things to consider as the holiday season approaches…

    1. Alcohol and drug abuse damages the brain.

    From the first scan I ordered on a patient with substance abuse problems, I saw very significant brain changes. A healthy scan shows full, even, symmetrical activity. Drug and alcohol abuse tended to cause overall decreased activity in the brain. These brains looked more aged, more shriveled, and more toxic than the brains of people who did not use drugs.

    Heroin and heroin-like drugs, called opiates, caused severe decreased activity, as did much alcohol. Methamphetamines and cocaine tended to cause what looked like multiple holes or mini-strokes in the brain. Marijuana caused decreased activity in the frontal and temporal lobe areas (areas involved with memory and motivation).

    All substance abuser brains did not look the same. Some people who have used drugs for a short time had horrible looking brains, while others, who used drugs for longer periods of time, had brains that did not look that bad. There must be genetic factors involved as well.

    2. Alcohol and drug abuse is often a form of self medication (hot brains and cold brains).

    One of the most powerful lessons we have learned from imaging is that many people who abuse substances are really trying to change their own brain chemistry. First, a word about what SPECT studies actually show us. We basically look for three things: areas of the brain that work well, areas of the brain that work too hard, and areas of the brain that do not work hard enough.

    People with overactive brains, such as those with bipolar or manic-depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, certain forms of depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, tend to abuse substances that calm the brain down, such as marijuana, alcohol, or opiates.

    People with under-active brains, such as those who have attention deficit disorder, tend to abuse stimulating drugs such as methamphetamine or cocaine. The drugs or alcohol make them feel better, so they continue to use, even though it has many other problems. It is essential to treat the underlying problems in order for them to heal from the substance abuse. Brain injuries are also involved in substance abuse in far greater numbers than most people realize.

    3. The past is history and the future a mystery – let’s live today!

    This can be a great time of year – I encourage you to take care of yourself, don’t overindulge in destructive behavior and don’t let your past destroy the present. Make new and positive holiday traditions, beginning this year! This year, be kind to yourself and your brain – it will make a difference for you and those you love!

    To your brain health,
    Daniel

    Daniel G. Amen, MD
    CEO, Amen Clinics, Inc.
    Distinguished Fellow, American Psychiatric Association

  4. Mszad7865 November 22, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    i used Ritalin my self and felt dizzy, dry mouth, week, since i stop using it i am doing great in school.

    • Anonymous November 28, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

      I am surprised to find out how many people do not benefit from the ADD ADHD drugs

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