Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Ritalin, and the Brain
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, more commonly referred to as simply ADHD, is the most commonly diagnosed disorder among American children today. According to the National Institute on Mental Health an estimated 3 to 5 percent of school age children are affected by this disorder. (1) There are more diagnosed cases of ADHD of in the United States than there are anywhere in the world. The main symptoms of ADHD include "developmentally inappropriate levels of attention, concentration, activity, distractibility, and impulsivity." (1) While the number of people diagnosed with ADHD increases dramatically every year, there is still much about the disorder that is not understood. While scientists have deduced that ADHD originates in the brain, they still have many questions about the nature of it. The classification of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has become quite a controversial topic in American society today. There are some who believe that by recognizing the symptoms associated with the disorder as ADHD; science is simply putting a band-aid on a problem that could be otherwise corrected with behavior modification.
The lack of a complete understanding of ADHD has led scientists to question how to go about treating ADHD. While at the moment the disorder cannot be cured, they are methods that scientists have come up with to address the symptoms displayed by ADHD. These approaches range all the way from psychotherapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy, to the prescription of pyschostimulant medications. (3) The most popular of these medications include amphetamines, such as Aderall, and methylphenidates such as Ritalin. (1) The use of such drugs has caused controversy among scientists and general American society alike. If we do not understand the exact nature of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is it appropriate to use drugs as methylphenidates to deal with it? While studies conducted on the short-term use of these drugs have indicated strongly favorable results in reducing the symptoms of ADHD, at the present there have not been any conclusive studies to show the long-term effects of methylphenidate.
To look at the other side of the debate on ADHD one must also consider the argument that while scientists at the moment do not completely understand the nature of ADHD, they are obligated to learn more. If the use of Ritalin has shown obviously beneficial effects is it not logical to use it? The debate surrounding the use of psychostimulants drugs, and more specifically Ritalin, has mainly to do with the lack of understanding concerning ADHD than it does with the drugs themselves. Scientists believe that one first one has to recognize ADHD as a disorder before one can proceed to evaluate its treatments. Ultimately the battle over Ritalin and ADHD demonstrates the lack of understanding we as humans have of the brain and how it functions.