As parents, the decision to medicate for ADHD is a difficult one. It may be even more difficult for parents in the medical profession. With an intimate knowledge of the risks, side effects and general outcomes, it becomes a very personal decision. And then there’s the rising concern about whether Ritalin is being overprescribed.
In truth, there are pros and cons to putting your child on Ritalin, but they may vary based on the situation.
How Ritalin Works
Methylphenidate, known as Ritalin, is a stimulant that is commonly prescribed to children with ADHD. It may sound counterintuitive to prescribe a stimulant to an already over-stimulated child, but Ritalin is believed to work by stimulating the area of the brain responsible for things like attention span.
Pros of Using Ritalin
Many parents turn to Ritalin when they feel they have no other options. One of the best things about starting on Ritalin is that it works quickly, so you don’t have to wait weeks to determine whether it’s a good fit or the dosage should be adjusted.
Ritalin is also relatively inexpensive and has a long history of use. Some of the pros to using Ritalin include:
- Better emotional control
- Increased patience
- Improved relationships
- Less fidgeting
- Increased self-esteem
- Improvements in class behavior and homework
Cons of Using Ritalin
One of the biggest cons to using this drug is that Ritalin is very addictive. In addition, it has some undesirable side effects.
Some common side effects include:
- Increased appetite
Some parents also notice that their children seem to get a burst of energy in the evening after the day’s dose has word off. This can lead to trouble sleeping for the child and stress for the parent.
Less common side effects of Ritalin include:
High blood pressure
- Growth delays
- High blood pressure
- Facial tics
One study also links Ritalin use with symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Researchers found that a whopping 51% of children on Ritalin in this small-scale study developed symptoms of OCD. This begs the question of whether we may be trading one problem for another.
How Parents Feel About ADHD Medication
A Consumer Reports survey found that only 41% of parents were highly satisfied with their child’s ADHD medication. Nearly one-third were dissatisfied and the remainder were fairly satisfied. Parents were more likely to be satisfied with extended-release formulations, nothing that their children exhibited better behavior and improved social relationships.
Ritalin is a commonly prescribed drug to treat ADHD, but its side effects may leave you wondering whether the condition is more desirable than the drug. Considering that it can lead to addiction and OCD, Ritalin is proving to be a less desirable option for many parents. Still, it is proven to be an effective treatment for ADHD.
Adderall is another common prescription for ADHD and its side effects are equally concerning. Both Ritalin and Adderall can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms. In addition, Adderall may present scary side effects like seizures, hallucinations and a potentially life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome.
It will be up to each parent along with their doctor to determine whether Ritalin or another medication is right for their child.
If your child’s ADHD is mild, you may be able to achieve very positive results through classroom-based interventions and parent training. Creating routines for your child with mild to moderate ADHD may also be helpful.
On the other hand, if you find that ADHD is severely hampering your child’s life, including his schoolwork, play and friendships, you may want to consider Ritalin. Since it works quickly, you’ll see right away whether it is helping your child.