Ritalin is the most widely prescribed, and the most controversial, drug used in the treatment of attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other behavioral disorders in children. Adderol and Concerta are two more recently released drugs in the same classification.
Ritalin is the brand name for methylphenidate—a stimulant which enhances dopamine flow in the brain, creating apparent increases in impulse control and attention span. Adderol is a combination of stimulants, while Concerta is a "longer lasting" form of Ritalin.
Based on the (unproven) concept that hyperactivity is caused by a biochemical abnormality, they work to chemically slow down the pace by stimulating a supposedly underactive part of the brain. Others view it as a short-term chemical solution to a deeper long-term problem, and others worry that doctors prescribe it indiscriminately.
The most widely recognized side effects of this classification of drugs include:
Increased heart rate/blood pressure
Rebound effect as does wears off
Additional, more serious side effects have been noted, including developmental inhibition, severe mood disorders, aggression, liver damage and others.
Ritalin and its cousins have made recent headlines because of reports of children and teenagers buying it from their hyperactive classmates on the playground and take it to get high. In other cases, parents have demanded that doctors prescribe the drugs to improve the academic performance of children who don’t have ADD.
Prescriptions for SSRI medications (Prozac, Paxil, Wellbutrin, etc.) are on the increase. These medications are recommended for people 18 and over, and have serious side effects including seizure risk and suicidal thoughts or actions. Yet they are being given to children. Please see the ABC News videos to inform yourself on these drugs.