Overprescribing Ritalin in the United States

Topics: Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Methylphenidate, Dopamine Pages: 5 (1740 words) Published: July 17, 2011
Running head: Overprescribing Ritalin

Overprescribing Ritalin in the United States

Ritalin has become one of the most widely used stimulant prescriptions among ADHD patients in the United States. Over the past 40 years, the controlled drug has sparked heated debates over whether doctors overprescribe the drug. There are many critics that believe doctors should try alternate forms of treatment before administering the drug. On the controversy, there are also many supporters who swear by the medication, claiming it saved their relationship with their child or loved one. Throughout this research paper, the writer will expose both view points.

Over the past 40 years there has been a great deal of controversy regarding the distribution of the leading stimulant Ritalin among ADHD patients. Many critics feel that the drug is widely overprescribed. “Additionally, they claim that Ritalin (methylphenidate) is inherently dangerous and that the entire system of the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD is seriously flawed,” (Safer, 2000). On the other hand, there are individuals that have dealt with ADHD patients first hand and swear by the beneficial results they have witnessed. The major points of both supporters and critics will be expressed throughout this paper. After discussing both positions, the writer of this research paper will present a final conclusion and a personal opinion of the topic. Before discussing whether Ritalin is overprescribed, it is important to understand the history and purpose of the drug. Ritalin was first introduced to the public in the 1950’s in order to treat hyperactivity. In the early 1960s, the disorder was labeled "Minimal Brain Dysfunction". At the end of the 1960’s the name of the disorder was changed to "Hyperkinetic Disorder of Childhood." Gradually, new symptoms were added to the description of the disorder. “Along with hyperactivity, added symptoms were lack of focus and spaceyness associated with impulsiveness. Impulsiveness now included verbal, cognitive and motor impulsiveness,” (Londrie, 2003). In 1980, the National Institute of Mental Health officially recognized Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), with or without hyperactivity, which caused an increased demand for the medication. Since then, Ritalin has taken the leading role in treatment of ADHD. Despite the common usage, many people do not understand how a stimulant can help an already hyperactive person. People want to know what causes ADHD and how the stimulants work. According to Susan Brink, scientists have found that: ADHD occurs in part because certain receptors in the brain involved in focusing attention and reining in impulsiveness fail to respond to the brain's natural chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine. The interactions between the chemicals and the receptors help most of us stick with tedious chores like balancing the checkbook (they also prevent most of us from blurting out spontaneous observations about the boss's ideas). Medications like Ritalin are thought to increase those chemicals and to stimulate the inhibitory receptors, producing the odd result of a stimulant drug's acting to increase inhibition. (Brink, 2000). Over the years, there has been a widespread concern about the attractiveness and possible overuse of the controlled drug. Critics also show concern for the serious side effects that Ritalin can potentially have on the millions of children and adults that consume it. Some believe Ritalin is similar to cocaine and, unless kept tightly regulated and prescribed at a minimum, can become a widely abused drug. A recent study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, suggested that “…participant-rated drug effects of methylphenidate (Ritalin) are similar to those of cocaine in experienced stimulant users,” (Rush, Baker, 2001). Recent speculation shows concern that adolescents are obtaining prescriptions by faking symptoms in...
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