Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) can be a disabling learning disorder. For young children it can make school frustrating and incomprehensible and for the teachers and parents who attempt to help children with ADD, it can provide a huge obstacle. Attention Deficit Disorder is very much what it name suggests–a disability in which the ability to concentrate is jeopardised, causing learning and performing attention intensive activities difficult and at times, impossible. To help children who suffer from ADD, psychologists have suggested attention-increasing activities that attempt to help children with ADD by improving their attention spans through repetition and conditioning. These types of activities may offer some help however for severe ADD sufferers, they can only aggravate the condition and make the condition more frustrating. Because ADD is a disorder which comes chemical imbalances, doctors have utilized Ritalin, Methylphenidate, as a mild amphetamine drug to help especially children with ADD in school. Although Ritalin does provide relief for children and adults with ADD, it can also have damaging side-effects and the use of the drug for the treatment of ADD has come into close inspection in the last few years.

Methylphenidate is a prescription stimulant commonly used to treat Attention-deficit hy-peractivity disorder, or ADHD. Its brand name, Ritalin, works in the same ways that caffeine does it increases heart rate, increases metabolism, heightens concentration–but in an exponen-tially more potent manner. Methylphenidate is a central nervous system (CNS) stimu-lant,[10][11][12] reducing impulsive behavior, and facilitating concentration on work and other tasks. Adults who have ADHD often report that methylphenidate increases their ability to focus on tasks and organize their lives. In children who are prescribed with the drug to help with their ADD, the drug is shown to provide relief and it does indeed aid in concentration. Children dis-play signs of increased attention, less irritability and higher information retention. However Rita-lin has a slight “feel-good” side-effect that makes it not addictive, but habit-forming. After long-term use of Ritalin, users find themselves dependent on the drug, using it even when not neces-sary or after their ADD has been controlled. This dependency has come into criticism and many opponents of Ritalin point to Ritalin as a pharmaceutical gateway drug, leading to stronger dos-ages in later life or illegal drug experimentation.

Ritalin also causes substantial physiological side-effects. Reported methylphenidate abuse side effects include psychosis (abnormal thinking or hallucinations), difficulty sleeping, mood swings, mood changes, stomach aches, diarrhea, headaches, lack of hunger (leading to weight loss) and dry mouth. These also include shaking or tremors, irritability, insomnia, tachycardia, high blood pressure and increased metabolism. Moodiness is also a noted side-effect and in children side-effects such as these can also cause problems in school for teachers. Children often do not recognize these symptoms in themselves, further aggravating the side-effects that can not be controlled. So although attention performance may be benefited, in other areas of life the use of Ritalin could be detrimental.

Ritalin is a drug that has come into increased questioning in recent years due to speculation that its side-effects far outweigh the benefits it offers. Especially in children, the prescribing of Ritalin is highly habit-forming and can cause problems for the child socially and be damaging when used long-term. Before being prescribed, doctors and parents should study how severe the ADD is, balancing the benefits with the plethora of possible side-effects.


Bauer, Angela Marie, and Stephen B. Mccarney. The Parent’s Guide to Attention Deficit Disorders: Intervention Strategies for the Home. Columbia: Hawthorne Educational Services, 1995.
Brown, Thomas. Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults (Yale University Press Health & Wellness). New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.
Diller, Lawrence H.. Running on Ritalin: A Physician Reflects on Children, Society, and Performance in a Pill. United States and Canada: Bantam, 1999.
Emery, Kevin Ross. Managing the Gift: Alternative Approaches for Attention Deficit Disorder. Nashville: Lightlines Publishing, 2000.
Stein, David B.. Ritalin Is Not The Answer: A Drug-Free, Practical Program for Children Diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.

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