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ADHD: Prescription Stimulants & Medication Side Effects

  • Synopsis: Published: 2015-07-03 - Prescription stimulants of different dosages are often prescribed to people with ADHD to help with self-esteem, social and family interactions and thinking ability. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Disabled World at Disabled World.

ADHD - Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - Similar to hyper-kinetic disorder in the ICD-10) is a developmental neuropsychiatric disorder in which there are significant problems with executive functions (e.g., attentional control and inhibitory control) that cause attention deficits, hyperactivity, or impulsiveness which is not appropriate for a person's age. These symptoms must begin by age six to twelve and persist for more than six months for a diagnosis to be made. In school-aged individuals inattention symptoms often result in poor school performance.

ADD - Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder predominantly inattentive (ADHD-PI), formerly attention deficit disorder (ADD), is one of the two types of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The term was formally changed in 1994 in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV), to "ADHD predominantly inattentive" (ADHD-PI or ADHD-I)

Main Document

Quote: "Ritalin has been approved for use by people for more than five decades, but there are surprisingly few studies on the potential for serious side-effects such as carcinogenicity or mutagenicity in either animals or people."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in ten children in America, to include almost a fifth of boys in high school, have received a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some people are worried that a diagnosis of ADHD and its medication are overused in America, something that may sound plausible, particularly since ADHD diagnosis have grown by 41% over the last ten years. Yet since ADHD is a malleable concept based on subjective impressions, it is difficult to know what it means to say that a person who has received the diagnosis does not really have it.

Stimulant medications, to include amphetamines and methylphenidate, are many times prescribed to treat children, adolescents, or adults who experience ADHD. People with ADHD consistently have more difficulty with paying attention or are more impulsive or hyperactive than people of the same age. The pattern of behavior often times becomes evident when a child is in preschool or the first grades of elementary school.

The average age of onset of ADHD symptoms is seven. A number of people's ADHD symptoms improve during adolescence or as they age, although the disorder might persist into adulthood. ADHD diagnosis are increasing; according to the CDC, as of 2011, 11% of people between the ages of 4-17 have been diagnosed.

Prescription Stimulants

Prescription stimulants have a focusing and calming effect on people with ADHD. They are prescribed to people for daily use and come in the form of capsules or tablets of different dosages. Treatment of ADHD with stimulants, many times in conjunction with psychotherapy, helps to improve ADHD symptoms as well as the person's self-esteem, social and family interactions and thinking ability.

An increasing number of adolescents and young adults are abusing prescription stimulants in order to boost their study performance in an effort to improve their grades in school. There is widespread belief that these drugs can improve someone's ability to learn. Prescribed stimulants do promote wakefulness, yet studies have discovered that they do not enhance thinking or learning ability when taken by those who do not actually have ADHD. Research has also discovered that students who abuse prescription stimulants actually have lower GPA's in high school and college than those who do not.

Every stimulant works by increasing dopamine levels in the person's brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with movement, pleasure and attention. The therapeutic effect of stimulants is achieved by slow and steady increases of dopamine, which are similar to the way dopamine is naturally produced in a person's brain. The dosages prescribed by doctors start low and increase over time until a therapeutic effect has been reached. When taken in dosages and through routes other than ones prescribed, prescription stimulants can increase brain dopamine in a quick and greatly amplified way, thereby disrupting usual communication between brain cells while producing euphoria, as a result increasing the risk of addiction.

ADHD Medication Side-Effects

As ADHD drug effects start to wear off between doses there might be withdrawal effects that resemble the behaviors, such as hyperactivity, that doctors intend to treat with the drugs. Parents and teachers often take this as reinforcement of the idea that children need these drugs, misconstruing behaviors and moods as an underlying disorder that needs to be medicated. Below are the many side-effects of these medications:

  • Violence
  • Anorexia
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Psychosis
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Quietness
  • Disinterest
  • Nightmares
  • Weight loss
  • Mood swings
  • Poor appetite
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling suicidal
  • Emotionally bland
  • Reduced creativity
  • Increased sadness
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Personality changes
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Increased chance of seizures
  • Obsessive compulsive behavior
  • Tourettes or other tic syndromes
  • Less able to control their emotions
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Social isolation, becoming more detached and lonesome
  • Growth suppression, and slower rate of physical development during puberty

As you can tell, the side-effects of ADHD medications can present a child, adolescent or adult with ADHD with issues that are also quite serious. A doctor must be very careful when prescribing these medications. If you have any questions in regards to ADHD medication your loved one is taking, do not hesitate to contact a doctor.

ADHD Medications and Safety

The issue is that we simply do not know enough about the long-term use of ADHD medications. A closer look at the information available on ADHD drugs reveals a number of safety concerns. When it comes to drugs such as Ritalin, or methylphenidate, we really do not know all of the long-term effects.

Ritalin has been approved for use by people for more than five decades, but there are surprisingly few studies on the potential for serious side-effects such as carcinogenicity or mutagenicity in either animals or people. To be plain - there is insufficient research to assure both parents and children that these drugs will not lead to cancer through damaging cells. The lack of research on the long-term effects of Ritalin use in people warrants great concern.

At this time, it remains unclear what the long-term effects would be for children who took Ritalin 10-20 years ago, or for people who are currently being treated with the drug. It is worth bearing in mind that rats share a high degree of genetic similarity to people. What we do know is that repeated exposure to Ritalin in early life affects a number of physiological and behavioral responses in adulthood.

Awareness: ADHD Awareness

Orange awareness ribbonThe orange colored ribbon signifies awareness of both child and adult ADHD, and October has been declared ADHD Awareness Month. In 2012 FEAADAH formally requested from the World Health Organization (WHO) the declaration of an annual ADHD World Awareness Day.

Learn More About ADHD Medications

  • The Concept of ADHD Is Changing
  • "ADHD" medications (stimulant drugs such as Ritalin)
  • The Merchants of Speed or the Modern-Day ADHD Medicine Show

Statistics: ADHD Numbers

  • Rates of diagnosis and treatment have increased in both the United Kingdom and the United States since the 1970s.
  • ADHD is estimated to affect about 6 - 7% of people aged 18 and under when diagnosed via the DSM-IV criteria. When diagnosed via the ICD-10 criteria rates in this age group are estimated at 1 - 2%.
  • Children in North America appear to have a higher rate of ADHD than children in Africa and the Middle East; this is believed to be due to differing methods of diagnosis rather than a difference in underlying frequency.
  • ADHD is diagnosed approximately three times more often in boys than in girls. This difference between sexes may reflect either a difference in susceptibility or that females with ADHD are less likely to be diagnosed than males.

Related Information:

  1. Love Is The Best ADHD Treatment Not Ritalin
    Ritalin closely resembles an amphetamine. It is a cocaine-like drug that induces zombie-like behavior in children.
  2. ADHD in Girls Often Misunderstood - Shire - (2014-11-14)
  3. Steady Rise in Prescribed Stimulant Use for ADHD - NIH/National Institute of Mental Health - (2011-09-28)

Information from our ADHD and ADD: Facts and Research section - (Full List).

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