Ritalin - Helpful and Harmful
When "20/20" and "Oprah" did segments about ADD on television, many parents felt that they finally knew what was "wrong" with their kids. They rushed to the doctor's office to find out how they could "fix" the problem. Most soon discovered a drug called Ritalin. It sounded simple. All they had to do was give their rambunctious or hyperactive child a pill three or four times a day, and magically he or she would be a perfect little angel. Most were so happy to find a cure that they did not stop to contemplate other methods of treatment, possible side effects, or get a second opinion. Dr. Sharon Collins believes this is because, "It takes time for parents and teachers to talk to kids. It takes less time to get a child a pill" (Hancock 52). Parents get stuck in the mind set that Ritalin is a cure all for hyperactive children. Many psychiatrists say that "about half of the children who show up in their offices as ADHD referrals are actually suffering from a variety of other ailments" (Hancock 52). Some doctors claim that "parents of normal children have actually asked for Ritalin just to improve their child's grades" (Hancock 53). When parents cannot get Ritalin from one doctor, they keep searching until they eventually find one who will prescribe the drug (Hancock 53). It is not hard to find a doctor to prescribe Ritalin, because many "think that by giving a child Ritalin, the likelihood of helping him is high and the downside is low" (Hancock 53).
Ritalin has become the most prescribed drug for people with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). An abundance of media coverage brought Ritalin to the attention of parents, educators, and doctors worldwide and caused a drastic increase in the diagnosis of ADD and ADHD. The increased popularity of Ritalin has led to premature and improper diagnosis of ADD and ADHD and the subsequent growth of the number of prescriptions written for Ritalin. Many experts feel physicians should be more aware of the side effects of the drug and look to alternate solutions before prescribing Ritalin. Some experts also believe that Ritalin should be only part of the treatment for patients with ADD or ADHD. The drug, which now saturates the market, produces the same sensations as the narcotic speed if someone who is not ADD or ADHD takes it. Because of its narcotic nature, Ritalin is considered by law to be a controlled substance, and its dosage and intake must be carefully monitored. Parents see Ritalin as a "quick fix" and urge doctors to prescribe it for their children, thus leading to premature or improper diagnoses, more people having adverse side effects to the drug, and an increased availability of the drug for non-medicinal purposes.
Many doctors do not take the time to perform a complete evaluation of the patient who is suspected to have ADD or ADHD. They listen to the teacher or parent and...