Ritalin Not a "Gateway" Drug


The folks over at the Office of National Drug Control Policy must be relieved to hear that Ritalin is not a "gateway" drug according a Reuters report of new study in the journal Pediatrics. Now they get back to trying to ban the gateway drug that all known addicts have abused, mothers milk.

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  1. The problem I have with Ritalin is not the notion that it is a “gateway” drug. The deeper problem is the tendency in our society to prefer the quick, easy fix that doesn’t get at the heart of the problem. The kids are misbehaving? That’s okay. Just give them a pill to numb their minds. God forbid we actually take responsibility as parents and deal with our kids’ problems head on.

  2. The proclivity of some parents to drug their kids at the first sign of unruly behavior is an interesting phenomina.

    Drug additiction can be defined as the perception that all your problems can be solved by taking a drug.

    What do we call it when parents think all the problems they’re having with their children can be solved by forcing the children to take drugs? Besides a societal norm, I mean .

  3. Brad and Rus: Of course, you’re right that overweening authorities, say school administrators, if given the power, will abuse ritalin for the convenience of teachers. However, I think that many parents who choose to give their children ritalin can make a strong case that they are “taking responsibility as parents” and “deaing with their kid’s problems head on.” Since you wouldn’t object to parents giving their kids an antibiotic to cure a staph infection, why would you object to them giving their kids ritalin to correct what they regard as a brain dysfunction? BTW, February issue of Reason has my cover article “The Battle for Your Brain” dealing with the ethics of psychopharmacology. I hope you’ll read it.

  4. Er, Brad,
    Our kid has ADD. Not misbehavin’, just not able to focus. On her first dose of Ritalin, she smiled at her mother and said brightly “Hey Mom! For the first time ever, I feel normal! Does that make sense?” Her mom almost cried.

    When she’s on, she is more alert, but far less panicky in her responses to stimuli. She can think and focus better. Her school grades went from “in danger of failing” to “off the chart”. She’s been bumped up from regular classes to a full-time “gifted” program. Hardly a “mind numbing” experience.

    Yeah, she still has her moments. And we’ll not have her on during week ends, holidays or summer. Kids gotta be kids, and she’ll have to develop other coping mechanisms as she matures.

    It’s clear to me that you haven’t done your homework about the psychology of ADD/ADHD or the pharmacology of Ritalin. And please don’t lecture us about “responsibility as parents.”

    (Thanks, Ronald, for the head’s up.)

  5. >>However, I think that many parents who choose to give their children ritalin can make a strong case that they are “taking responsibility as parents” and “deaing with their kid’s problems head on.” Since you wouldn’t object to parents giving their kids an antibiotic to cure a staph infection, why would you object to them giving their kids ritalin to correct what they regard as a brain dysfunction?

  6. While I admit that it is wrong of me to paint every parent who gives his/her child Ritalin with such a broad brush, I stand behind the notion that our medical and psychological communities are far too quick to diagnose children with whatever the latest disorder is and immediately prescribe medication. For some children, I know that Ritalin makes a world of difference. For others, you can’t tell me that there is not a better solution out there than simply giving the kid a pill. I would argue, for example, that ADD is a phenomenon that stems largely from the way kids are raised today (how many hours of TV does the average kid watch today, I forget). Instead of letting your kid vegitate in front of the boob-tube for seven hours, make him read a book. Take him to the park. Take him fishing. Teach him a hobby. Give him something to do to blow off all of that excess energy. If that doesn’t help the kid, then give him the pill. My experience with some parents, however, is that they would much rather simply give the kid the pill than try anything else.

  7. There will be exceptions to every rule, of course. Ritalin might be beneficial in some patients lives. The potential for abuse, however, is extreme.

    Psychologists I’ve spoken with regarding this issue (psychotropic medications in general) state that they are trying to correct a chemical imbalance.

    I’ve asked them what test they performed to detect the imbalance, which chemicals are at what levels, etc. The ones I’ve spoken with said they conducted no testing, and that they were largely theorizing.

    This lack of hard evidence is disturbing. I admit that I’m not a professional in this area… anyone out there care to comment? Is there a blood test (or some such) which can detect these chemical imbalances in the brain?

    And as to patient percieved treatment success, I’m sure that some of the patients from the 50’s treated with lombotomy claimed that it helped them adjust with society and that they felt better. Does this mean that we should encourage the disaffected / disturbed amongst us to seek such treatment?

  8. since Ritalin is so overwhelmingly prescribed for boys (or so I understand), is it possible we are drugging little boys for being little boys?

  9. Steve: that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to say. To me, it seems that sedating otherwise energetic, active, and healthy young boys with a drug is nanny-statism at its worst.

  10. Steve: An excellent point.

    Do you think that if we were drugging teen and preteen girls at the same rate there would, at least, be greater public discussion of ADHD as a disease?

  11. It’s human nature to take the easy way. If slipping a pill to an unruly kid solves the problem, most people and institutions will take that route. Let’s face it, having raised 2 kids, it ain’t easy making them behave in a world where disciplining a child is equated with abuse.

  12. Do you think that adderall is having more of an effect on children growing up than ridilin?

  13. I take ritalin but my parents didn’t just say ok give him some pill it took them time to descide
    so its hard to imagine a parent just going ya drug him…

  14. My son, who is 13, just recently been told he has ADD. Now at first I didn’t want my son to be given ritilin in fear he would be addicted. My son is currently going though neurotheropy and I’m not seeing any difference in my son. So after alot of thought and talking to people who have kids on ritilin, I made an appointment to put him on ritilin for a trial period. If I find that my son is doing better, he is currently failing 7th grade, I will put him on ritilin.

    I don’t think that having a child with ADD is the parent fault. I think that having a child with a ADD is a challenge in itself and that to me is the best parenting anyone can face.

  15. i will be back most to read responses so please post them. i have a son that, to my knowledge of adhd, has it! the only problem is i just cant see myself putting my baby on this stuff! my brother was on it for many years and he was a zombie and had alot of the side affects as well. justin is very intellegent and soaks all information in like a sponge, when hes setting still and quiet enough to here it. the problem is he cant, he has had a bad report come home EVERY single day from school and tonight he totally lost his head in church. i have to say i never get to see any of these problems because like i said, he`s smart. he hasnt lost his mind yet! i have always been the type to disipline with all means possible. whatever it took. he is raised in a very loving home and is well taken care of. yet when he steps out the door he absolutly cant be controled! i have tried all my tactics on displine and still no mattrer what he drives EVERYONE crazy! he fears coming home everyday now, because i give him what it deserves! but i have began wondering if there isnt something real wrong with him that maybe he CAN back shelf while hes with us at home. he has every single symtom of adhd yet not around me and the family.hes hyper, sure, normal i thought for boys, but when i lay law, its law!, until he leaves my site! its like he totally cant see the conquences of his actions. and i know he knows them! something is wrong with him but what can i do but try this ritilin? he is so smart and i honstly think that everyone at his school hates him because he so bad. no body is trying anything else. they just say ritilin! what do i do when i do put him on it and he becaomes the zombie i remember in my brother? or the no sleep and stomach aches? because then i will imediantly take him off and then hes nothing more than a waisted mind out the door! because im not being bios, he really is smart especially for his age!

  16. “Psychologists I’ve spoken with regarding this issue (psychotropic medications in general) state that they are trying to correct a chemical imbalance.”

    I came across this board by accident, but found it very interesting. The comment above, from one of your post is not really quite right. Drugs like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxal are used to correct chemical imbalances by suppressing or enabling Serotonin uptake in the brain. Drugs like Ritilan are in the Amphetamine family, and work to short-circuit the brain. People with ADHD could be likened to an electrical storm. The random sparks of electrical energy is exploding in the brain, and cause the erratic behavior. When Amphetamine is applied to these storms, it “over amps” the brain storms, and seems to calm them down. The person can then focus and appears to be calmer and more in control. These storms continue to take place after the drugs are discontinued, unlike a drug that would change chemical balance. If the chemical balance took, then the symptoms would either not return or would return gradually as the balance once again destabilized. When a child (children react almost the complete opposite to drugs until puberty) takes an amphetamine, the reaction is to slow down, where as an adult “hypes” up. So the balance of chemicals is not attained. It is pure stimulation. Ritalin is a drug that I have been resistant to have my son take. I suppose I have worried that it could be a gateway drug. I just have a deeper feeling I could do better as a parent to work with my son. It has been VERY difficult, and sometimes I wonder if it would be better to try it out, but to date, I have not.

  17. Stacy,
    I can totally relate to your post. My son is a great kid, but he cannot sit still and he cannot focus. He bothers the other kids in school and he has never had friends or any one who liked him, and this has been going on since pre-school. I try to keep him in line, but with kids like my son and possibly yours too, the consequences are of no importance. I could spank, ground, threaten…. all of the old school methods of behavior modification, and not one thing, NOT ONE, has changed his behavior. One thing that I have learned from living with him, and I have had this confirmed by experts in the field, is that kids with ADD/ADHD are usually about three years emotionally behind their peers. When I took this information and applied it to my sons? behavior, it kind of became clearer to me. He does get along with kids younger than he, and every year he gets a little better (or maybe a little more mature?). This has been his best year yet, he is in the 6th grade, and is now forming bonds with other boys in his age group. The positive reactions from these kids have had as much an effect on his behavior as any drug has. Maybe our kids are just younger in mind and self-control issues. I just felt you when I read your post.

  18. my son is on atteral xr for his adhd. he does very well on it and i see a big difference. if you ahve a good doctor you will get the best medcine and plan of action for your child. also drugs arent the only thing my son goes to counseling every week and i try to find different programs and help wherever i can. i belive adhd is real and treatable with drugs and counceling. i have 3 kids. trust me i know typical biys and he is way over that. im not allowed to go to many places becasue he is out of control and i ahve tried every displine action there is and it doesnt work on him but it works for my other kids. we get a lot of bad raps about a childs mental health issues and blame on parents and its very hard for us when people treat us that way.

  19. how long does it take for ritilin to work after very first dose? I’m hearing some people say up to 2 wks. my 16yr son started 2 days ago on a time release 30mg?

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