Kids get their daily fix

Every day millions of children worldwide line up and get their dose of a mind-altering drug. The drug – pushed by reputable drug companies and their sales force, the medical fraternity – is promoted as necessary for appropriate social behavior for the child. Perplexed parents feel powerless as they are told that these unnatural chemicals in their children’s brains are necessary in order for them to function properly and cope with their ADD/ADHD condition.

Yet more evidence as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Vol. 286 No. 8, August 22-29, 2001, will hopefully start to make doctors and parents think about what they are doing to their children. According to Nora Volkow, MD, psychiatrist and imaging expert at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY, advanced imaging research has answered a 40-year-old question about methylphenidate (Ritalin). Ritalin “acts much like cocaine, albeit cocaine dripped through molasses.” Taken orally in pill form, Ritalin rarely produces a cocaine-like high, however, if Ritalin is injected as a liquid it sends a jolt that “addicts like very much.”

Primary research on 11 healthy men, who took various doses of Ritalin orally, produced shocking results: “Instead of Ritalin being a less potent transport inhibitor than cocaine, methylphenidate was more potent.” (This means that Ritalin worked more potently than cocaine in causing another hit of pleasure).

A typical dose of Ritalin for children of 0.5 mg/kg blocked 70% of dopamine transporters. Dr. Volkow stated: “The data clearly show that the notion that Ritalin is a weak stimulant is completely incorrect.”

The only thing that prevents children from becoming addicted to this drug is that Ritalin takes about an hour to raise dopamine levels, whereas inhaled or injected cocaine hits the brain in seconds. “It is the speed at which you increase dopamine that appears to be a key element of the addiction process.” This does mean that the drug is without side effects.

The long-term dopamine effects of taking Ritalin for years, as many children do, are “unknown.” One large epidemiological study reports more drug addiction in children with ADHD who took Ritalin compared with children with ADHD who took no drug. (Journal of Learning Disabilities. 1998; 31:533-544).

Volkow notes that as a psychiatrist she is sometimes embarrassed about the lack of knowledge of how Ritalin works because Ritalin “is, by far, the drug we prescribe most frequently to children.”

How long will we put our future generations at risk allowing their bodies and minds to be deformed by their daily ‘fix’?


Dr. Darryl Roundy

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