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ADHD Medication Controversy

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

From toddlers to adolescents, many children are being treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) through anti-ADHD drugs like Ritalin. Hyperactivity and inattentiveness are the hallmarks symptoms of ADHD diagnosis, and the American Psychiatry Association (APA) defines ADHD as “a pattern persisting for six months or longer in at least two different settings of thought and behavior associated with distress and impairment of functioning from some dysfunction within the individual” (Livingston 1).

ADHD is commonly associated with impaired learning capacity in children who exhibit symptoms of the disorder. However, the rising number of children suspected of exhibiting ADHD has greatly increased the number of prescriptions being written for the drug methylphenidate hydrochloride, an amphetamine popularly known as Ritalin. Ritalin became the most prescribed treatment of choice for children with ADHD, and figures show that between 1989 and 1994, there was a fourfold increase in the rate of Ritalin consumption and ten percent of all make school children in the US currently take the medication (Livingston 1).

While environmental and genetic factors are though to play a role in the cause of ADHD, its true cause remains unknown. Diagnostic criteria for ADHD also remain incomplete. Many argue that the use of Ritalin is not wise for children with ADHD because of its mysterious origins and because of research that shows that while the drug may make children with ADHD more manageable, it does nothing to improve cognitive functioning “The drug simply makes the child more manageable and better able to work to the level of the system’s expectations. It does not seem to produce long-term changes in cognitive functioning” (Livingston 8). Ritalin has also been proven to play no role in improving long-term achievement-test scores.


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