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The parents of six year old James Patrick Smith receive a phone call
from the school guidance counselor informing them of their child's recent
hyperactive behavior. After a short conference, the guidance counselor suggests
to the parents a solution for young James' problem; as a result, the family
visits their family doctor and the doctor diagnoses James with Attention Deficit
Disorder (ADD) during a one hour appointment. To remedy the disorder, the doctor
prescribes the "savior drug" for ADD patients; children are almost always fed
the drug Ritalin, a prescription medicine that packs a strong euphoric punch
(Machan 151). The preceding hypothetical situation commonly occurs in the
United States at a growing rate which may be too fast for the nation to contain.
The over-prescription of the drug Ritalin to correct ADD produces many negative
side effects upon patients and society.
In the vast market of prescription drugs, Ritalin, one of the most
highly used drugs, also carries with it some of the greatest medical drawbacks.
ADD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) stands tall as America's
number one psychiatric disorder (Hancock 52). Estimates suggest that more than
two million children live with the disorder; in addition, according to Dr.
Daniel Safer of Johns Hopkins University, over 1.3 million regularly consume
Ritalin for treatment of ADD (Hancock 52). Ritalin appears to be a popular
choice for doctors, but the daily effects of the drug, which family physicians
do not see, creates questions as to how well the drug actually works.
Scientifically know as methylphenidate, Ritalin stimulates the central nervous
system with similarities to amphetamines in the nature and extent of its
effects; furthermore, it supposedly activates the brain stem arousal system and
the cerebral cortex (Bailey 3). The key factor remains that doctors and
researchers are not sure of what precisely occurs when Ritalin invades the human
body. Hancock notes that no definite long-term studies exist to assure parents
that Ritalin does not cause more or less havoc in their child, nor does any
disease accompany prolonged usage (52). Testing results released by the Federal
Drug Administration (FDA) in February 1996, show a study of mice in which a rare
form of liver cancer arose as a result of Ritalin; however, the FDA still
regards Ritalin as "safe and effective" (Hancock 56). Offering almost as many
side effects as the number of people who take the drug, Ritalin alters many
different aspects of the body. Just a few symptoms cited by Bailey include:
nervousness, insomnia, loss of appetite, dizziness, heart palpitations,
headaches, extreme weight loss, skin rashes, possible psychotic episodes, and
severe withdrawals (3). Most physicians would not admit to being blind about
the true consequences of Ritalin, and most families never receive the needed
information to make an educated decision about Ritalin whether or not to take
the drug.
To be a potent drug with many numerous physical effects, Ritalin is not
respected by doctors who spend only a short amount of time with patients before
prescribing the "wonder drug" as treatment. Findings of a recent survey by the
Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, report that almost half of the
pediatricians surveyed said they send ADD/ADHD children home within a hour
(Hancock 52). Time appears to be on the side of the doctors which leaves
patients and their families holding a possible "time bomb" of Ritalin. With
assembly line-like characteristics, physicians turn patients in one door and out
the other without conversing with teachers, reviewing a child's educational
level, nor doing psychological evaluations (Hancock 52). After children use all
the Ritalin given with one prescription, new prescriptions are required for
additional doses (Bailey 5). Doctors as well as pharmacies benefit monetarily
from the constant appointments to the doctor and the many prescriptions
respectively, for a drug that may be doing more harm than good. No X-ray, blood
scan, or CT scan determines who does or does not need Ritalin (Hancock 52).
Hancock states that prescribing Ritalin has become more of an art form rather
than a scientific method (52). Physicians hand out Ritalin without proper
research and examination of each individual.
Using Ritalin creates psychological changes in addition to the medical
effects which become evident. Throughout life every person loses concentration
or does not pay attention to the present situation; however, if ADD was based
upon the individual occurrences that all humans experience, then the entire
world would be diagnosed with ADD and consuming Ritalin. Citing the main
criticism of Ritalin, Hancock states the drug is simply a quick fix for children
living in an impatient world (52). "It takes more time for parents and teachers
to sit down and talk to kids; it takes less time to get a child a pill," states
Dr. Sharon Collins, a pediatrician in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where reportedly eight
percent of the children are on Ritalin (Hancock 52). Parents many times
initiate the pursuit to obtain Ritalin with hopes that the "miracle drug" can
work to help their child achieve more. Leutwyler writes of anecdotes about
parents seek to find an ADD/ADHD diagnosis for their child so that he or she may
possibly study more intently, focus on tests, and get better overall grades (14).
Children obtain false senses of security which leads many to put trust in a
capsule or a pill and disregard individual responsibilities to work without the
aid of a drug. Stating a similar fact, Machan explains that children must learn
to be held responsible for their behavior and every physical condition cannot be
corrected by a drug (151). Russel A Barkley of the University of Massachusetts
Medical Center states that "we are giving kids medication rather than dealing
with their problems" (14). Psychological dependence upon a medication is an
addiction to something that is almost always not necessary especially when
Ritalin with its unknown effects is used a tool by impatient parents.
Ritalin creeps into society as a drug with a big name and reputation for
being widely used; in addition, the illegal side effect of abuse comes along
into the picture. Classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, Ritalin
comes under strict regulations and quotas from the federal government dictating
the amount of the drug that can be manufactured (Bailey 2). Abusing the drug
usually takes place by snorting or injecting Ritalin into the body which
stimulates cocaine-like effects along with an armful of unwanted symptoms that
invade normal biological processes (Bailey 4). Intravenous use of Ritalin as
Bailey explains, exposes the body to many dust particles and even smaller
bacteria which can attach to the needle, flow straight into the blood, and
contaminate the circulatory system (4). Snorting Ritalin, which is more common,
harms the body just as much as does intravenous abuse. Ritalin tablets contain
hydrochloride salt which produces dilute hydrochloric acid when it comes in
contact with moisture; once inside the nasal passages, the acid burns the tender
nasal tissues which controls the olfactory sense in the body (Bailey 5). The
price that some people pay to damage their bodies expresses the lack of common
sense which abusers have. In the illicit street drug market, tablets usually
cost between three to fifteen dollars for a tablet that is no larger than a tic
found in the woods in size (Bailey 2). As ADD diagnosis increases, doctors'
demand for Ritalin increases to distribute to the patient; however, due to
government restrictions on manufacturing quotas, the amount of the drug
available is limited and abuse of the drug hinders the number of pills on the
legal market (Bailey 2). Hancock alerts that one of the most common places of
illegal sell of ...

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