Get rid of Ritalin

Across the nation, public schools are putting up drug-free zone signs. Laws put in place to prevent alcohol, tobacco and drugs from being taken by or sold to children are harsh, and society has made the point clear: Children should not do drugs.

Millions of children each year get prescribed Ritalin, a drug the Drug Enforcement Agency rates just as addictive as cocaine. | Wikimedia Commons

Millions of children each year get prescribed Ritalin, a drug the Drug Enforcement Agency rates just as addictive as cocaine. | Wikimedia Commons

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in 2007 that 2.7 million children from 4 to 17 years old use a medication to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Methylphenidate is the active ingredient in Ritalin, while amphetamine is the active ingredient in Adderall, and both are addictive.

Such addictive substances are easily obtained prescriptions contributing to a $7 billion-a-year ADHD drug market says the American Psychiatric Association. It just doesn’t seem right to require children as young as 4 years old to take several doses of these drugs a day.

The drug free signs are there for a reason: We, as parents and guardians of the young, sense there is something about the growth and development of a child’s mind and brain that must be protected.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration labels Ritalin and Adderall as schedule-two drugs with a “high potential for abuse,” which puts them in the same category as cocaine and methadone. The level of contradiction between telling a child to “just say no” to drugs and then saying “yes” to drugs with a prescription is irresponsible.

One of the reasons that 5.2 million of children have ADHD and attention deficit disorder, as reported by the CDC and the APA, is the criteria the APA created to diagnose people with such disorders.

1) In a child 6 to 12 years old who presents with inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, academic underachievement, or behavior problems, primary care clinicians should initiate an evaluation for ADHD

2) the diagnosis of ADHD requires that a child meet Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition criteria

3) the assessment of ADHD requires evidence directly obtained from parents or caregivers regarding the core symptoms of ADHD in various settings, the age of onset, duration of symptoms, and degree of functional impairment

4) the assessment of ADHD requires evidence directly obtained from the classroom teacher (or other school professional) regarding the core symptoms of ADHD, duration of symptoms, degree of functional impairment, and associated conditions

5) evaluation of the child with ADHD should include assessment for associated (coexisting) conditions

6) other diagnostic tests are not routinely indicated to establish the diagnosis of ADHD but may be used for the assessment of other coexisting conditions (e.g., learning disabilities and mental retardation)

The criteria for diagnosing children more represent a collection of personality traits that are a nuisance to teachers in classrooms than symptoms of a psychological disorder. These diagnoses lead to millions of kids being prescribed stimulants to effectively control a classroom and have children do better on tests when they should really be eating better and be given a more confident, attentive and knowledgeable approach to being schooled and raised.

Admittedly, not every child gets a misdiagnosis. In some cases, parents and teachers do everything they can and still struggle with getting children to behave. Many parents say their child acts better and is more obedient in class when on the medication, but suppressing a child’s energetic and unfocused mind — as many bright kids have — with a chemical compound is hardly an effective approach to instilling positive discipline coupled and enhancing learning capabilities.

Sensitively speaking, this is how addicts are produced. The Foundation for a Drug Free World said that in 2007, 3.8 percent of 12th graders admitted to using Ritalin without a prescription at least once in a 12-month period. This is part of a growing number of a new type of addict that has surpassed the number of recreational drug abusers: the prescription drug abuser.

If you give someone several doses of nicotine a day, they will naturally grow dependent upon nicotine — same with alcohol, caffeine, codeine or cocaine. When small children are given these psychoactive stimulants several times a day for possibly months or years at a time, their minds are developing and adjusting to a bath of toxicity.

In 2001, the Brookhaven National Laboratory released a report detailing Ritalin’s connection with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. The study indicated Ritalin increases the level of dopamine in the body. According to, over the long term, this excess dopamine causes hallucinations, delusions and other psychoses, as well as physical changes.

Our communities and leaders refer to children as our future, but an alarming percentage of our future is being drugged to help it focus, behave and test better at a very young age. An alternative has to be used within the school system to implement these outcomes in children labeled as ADHD.

Smaller classes, more competitive teacher qualifications, more home schooling, more interesting and applicable classes earlier in school and more attentive and disciplined parenting are better than giving children their daily fix. Positive encouragement, high expectations, physical activities and healthier diets are all immediate potential responses to this problem.

Michael Retherford is a mechanical engineering junior and may be reached at [email protected].

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