Ritalin: Designed Drug or Designed Disease?
Over the past twenty years, the use of Ritalin (methylphenidate HCI) has increased exponentially. According to statistics, one in every 5 to 8 children is currently prescribed Ritalin for a variety of issues relating to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Diagnosis of the disorder usually occurs when a child is between two and six years of age, at a time when children normally exhibit most of the baseline symptoms that provide the foundation for a diagnosis whether they have the disorder or not. In fact, a parent should be more concerned if their young child did not exhibit many of the diagnostic symptoms.
Ritalin was first approved for use by the FDA in 1963, for treating adults and children over the age of six. This age restriction has not changed in over four decades, yet children well under the age of six are being prescribed the drug for treating their attention and hyperactivity disorders. The initial clinical studies for Ritalin were primarily conducted on adults and did not last beyond a few weeks. This standard evaluation procedure has remained essentially unchanged despite the fact that very little is known about the drug and the effects it has on the human body almost half a century after its inception. The studies that have been done to evaluate Ritalin over the decades still have provided very little with regard to the long-term effects of the drug, especially on children, who are the primary recipients. The few studies that have been conducted to analyze the effects of Ritalin on children ages 3 through 6 were small scale (on less than 160 children) and lasted less than three weeks. The effects of the drug on anyone, adult or child, beyond 14 months have not been notably studied at all. Despite this documented lack of evaluation and research into the effects of Ritalin, the drug was approved by the FDA for use on children during some of the most formative years a child can have, especially with regard to brain development and mental activity.
According to a DEA background paper submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice on methylphenidate, the active ingredient in Ritalin, the drug is in the same federal drug schedule (Schedule II) as morphine and heroin, thus indicating that the FDA is fully cognizant of the “potential for abuse and severe psychological dependence” that Ritalin carries. The National Institute of Health states that the physiological effects of methylphenidate and orally ingested cocaine are almost identical. Like cocaine, Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant (CNS) and effects the human body in an identical fashion as cocaine, and can cause the same physical damage to the body as cocaine. Also, according to DEA information, the human body cannot tell the difference between cocaine and Ritalin. Yet cocaine is illegal, and a parent wouldn’t dream of administering cocaine to their child to treat a disorder, so why are they leaping at the opportunity to feed children a “legal” version of the drug?
In general, when a child is diagnosed with ADHD and Ritalin is prescribed, this is done outside the recommended guidelines by several notable associations and agencies, as well as the FDA itself. Since Ritalin has been proven to have a high risk for causing elevated blood pressure, enlarged heart, arrhythmia, and other cardiac issues (even over a short duration of use), the American Heart Association strongly urges parents and medical professionals to perform an ECG for any child prior to starting treatment with Ritalin, and they recommend regular ECG testing over the duration of the child’s treatment to monitor potential changes to and problems with the child’s heart. Reports of pediatric stroke have also been shown from long-term use of Ritalin, and the American Journal of Psychiatry noted in a June 2009 article that there is a significant association of stimulant (Ritalin) use with sudden and unexplained death in children. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) concurred, revealing that ADHD drugs, specifically Ritalin, are responsible for causing sudden death in children, with the risk of childhood death increasing 500% with the administration of Ritalin.
Also, prior to treatment with Ritalin, the DSM-IV (diagnostic criteria for mental disorders) states that a diagnosis of ADHD cannot be issued unless the symptoms have persisted for at least six months or longer, to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with normally accepted development levels. Most children are diagnosed with ADHD after one visit to a doctor that does not specialize in making such diagnoses, and no follow up visits are scheduled to ensure that the diagnosis is accurate and warranted. The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board examined the records of nearly 400 pediatricians who had prescribed Ritalin over a certain period, and found that over half the children that had been diagnosed with ADHD (or a related disorder) had not been given psychological or educational testing before being given the drug.
First and foremost, before prescribing and administering Ritalin, diagnosing a child with ADHD and “need” for the drug should be a lengthy and complex process involving several specialists, not a general practitioner or the child’s regular pediatrician. The child’s behavior should be evaluated by specialists and professionals on several levels and over a period of time, and a diagnosis should never be based on nothing more than the opinions or “observations” of a parent and a 15-minute visit by a less-than-qualified family doctor.
ADHD is a very vague diagnosis that is leapt upon by teachers, social workers, parents, and caregivers to excuse and explain any unacceptable or uncontrollable behavior. It is more acceptable for parents to give their child an allegedly scientific label rather than have to admit that their child’s “problems” are more often than not a direct result of, primarily, poor parenting and, less culpable but equally damaging, a lack of proper nutrition, educational immersion, and other environmental and social factors. A doctor will label a child ADHD after one short visit and the parents are ready to throw a blanket of acceptance on the diagnosis and immediately begin feeding the child drugs because it excuses the parents from responsibility or any sense of guilt they might have over the fact that their child’s “problems” are actually their fault.
National research has conclusively proven that the symptoms of ADHD can be completely reversed in 80% of children in just two weeks by eliminating processed foods, high intake of caffeinated beverages, and chemical food additives from the child’s diet. The entire theory of ADHD can be utterly nullified by handing an allegedly ADHD child a video game controller, after which the child will sit and engage in extremely focused, attentive, and mentally demanding gaming activities for as long as six hours without a break and without distraction. If ADHD were really a valid diagnosis, such behavior would not be possible.
The force-feeding of Ritalin to children by their parents is advocated by medical professionals and even society as a whole because it makes children easier to deal with for teachers, parents, and caregivers. It is engaged in for the convenience of parents and the profit of pharmacological companies and not out of true concern for children’s welfare. More than anything else, Ritalin is a form of chemical mind control because it does not effectively treat, cure, or prevent any illnesses or disorders. It only temporarily effects the chemical balance of the brain to create “acceptable” behavior. Because there is no justifiable medical use for Ritalin and the long-term effects are not known and have not been studied (even though the drug has been on the market for almost half a century), children are being treated as guinea pigs in a “let’s give this to them and see what happens” experiment.
Some of the documented side effects (short and long term) of Ritalin are growth suppression, decreased survival of new brain cells, depression, dysfunctional brain reward association, reduced ability to experience pleasure, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, brain development abnormalities, and small vessel damage in the heart. Additionally, between 1990 and 2000 there were 186 deaths from Ritalin reported to the FDA MedWatch program, a voluntary reporting program. Experts estimate, since reporting is voluntary, that the number of deaths represents about 20% of the actual count.
In documented studies over a period of five years, while Ritalin has been shown to effect temporary initial changes to a child’s behavior, hyperactive children who had received Ritalin did not differ significantly from children who didn’t receive it. The Montreal Children’s Hospital conducted this comprehensive study, which ultimately concluded that while children receiving Ritalin were initially more manageable, the degree of improvement and emotional adjustment was essentially identical at the end of five years to that seen in a group of children who had received no medication at all. The results of this study have been substantially supported by the fact that a review of twenty years of scientific literature on using Ritalin to treat ADHD found a consensus: there is no documented long-term benefit to academic achievement or pro-social behavior through the use of psychoactive drugs.
According to the DEA, contrary to popular belief, stimulants like methylphenidate will affect normal children and adults in the same manner that they affect ADHD children. Behavioral or attentional improvements with methylphenidate treatment, therefore, are not “diagnostic” of ADHD. Also, children who have undergone treatment with Ritalin have been proven to have a much more difficult time processing information or learning new things, and Ritalin is responsible for causing far more serious neurological problems than the problems it is alleged to treat.
Ritalin is not a new drug, by any means, so why does the company that produces it state that data on safety and efficacy of long-term use is not complete? A toy will get recalled if even one child’s death is attributed to it, so why are the same considerations not extended for a poorly researched and little understood or studied drug that has caused hundreds of deaths?
Children do not need mind-altering drugs to demonstrate normal, balanced behavior, and they don’t need to be force-fed drugs that become illegal just by changing the trade name just because they exhibit behavioral quirks that the absence of should be more concerning to parents than their presence. They simply need honest nutrition and responsible parenting. Parents who treat their children with Ritalin should be just as guilty of child abuse as a parent who beats their child half to death with a baseball bat. Just because a drug changes the behavior of a child doesn’t mean it is helping the child at all. Plenty of drugs change a person’s behavior and they aren’t considered medically acceptable or therapeutic, to the point where the use of such drugs can land a person in prison for a very long time…so why is treating a child with a drug that produces the same effects considered acceptable and necessary?