Ritalin, Are We Overmedicating Our Children?
Today, many children are diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children that are not able to concentrate, act impulsively, or have an abundance of energy are likely candidates of having ADHD. Many children have these characteristics and are being prescribed Ritalin, a drug that stimulates the brain to help children gain focus. Having said that, more and more children are taking Ritalin, but are too many taking it for the wrong reasons? Today we see children act out in class, call it a behavioral problem, and immediately put them on medication. Medicating children with Ritalin should be a last resort; doctors, parents, and teachers seemed to be using it as a first response. ADHD is a common behavioral disorder found more in boys and is characterized by poor concentration, distractibility, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Children with ADHD are easily distracted by their environment and find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time. They also find it hard to control their behaviors and commonly
disrupt their peers, their family members and teachers in the classroom setting. The child's school performance is usually affected negatively due to this. This condition is normally noticed in the child's early school years and the child's teachers often bring it to the attention of parents. For ADHD there is no cure, in some children the symptoms seem to lessen once the child enters adolescents. It is estimated that almost ten million children have been diagnosed with having ADHD. Glasser in his book claims "ADHD is nothing but a collection of behaviors that have been lumped together and called a disorder by the psychiatric community" (Glasser 76). The most common drug prescribed to children with ADHD is Ritalin. The 1990's witnessed a startling increase in the number of children diagnosed with ADHD and a corresponding increase in the use of Ritalin and similar drugs for its treatment. Ritalin use alone has gone up 700 percent since 1990, and ninety percent of all Ritalin is produced and used in the United States (Gray). Ritalin is a drug that began being used for children's behavioral problem in the 1950's. The first addition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manuel (DSM) was printed in 1952; in that book were three diagnosable psychological disorders for children. By 1980 the DSM contained ten times that number for pediatric diagnoses (Glasser 2). The Food and Drug Administration approved Ritalin on December 5, 1975. When the FDA approved it there were almost two hundred thousand children taking the drug. The short-term physical side effects of Ritalin are easily found in any book or web page. Those side effects such as insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, are found all over the place. Ritalin can
also affect the normal growth in children and can kill or permanently damage their brains. Considering Ritalin is a pretty new drug the long-term side effects are completely known. The younger children that began taking this in the 1980's are now in adulthood. These adults are now dealing with a whole new set of problems, due to the extended use of Ritalin. The new problems are, permanent insomnia, chronic depression, lowered sperm count in males (Glasser 50). Stimulant medications are far more dangerous than most practitioners and published experts seem to realize (Breggin). Doctors seem to forget to list the more serious side effects when prescribing the drug to children. A few of the "forgotten" side effects are irregular heartbeat, liver damage, and high blood pressure to name a few. In the absolute worst-case scenario death happens. Because of the lack of doctor's involvement in follow up care, death can and has occurred. Shaina Dunkle a ten year old from Pennsylvania died from Ritalin use in February 2001 (Grigg). She was diagnosed with ADHD and also had a...
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