The use of Ritalin® in the treatment of ADD/ADHD

August 15, 2011 by Francis Turgeon

The use of Ritalin® in the treatment of ADD/ADHD

Ritalin® is one of the best-known medications used to treat cases of Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD) in both children and adults alike. The active ingredient in Ritalin® is called methylphenidate. Many concerns have been raised with respect to the use of the drug, which has increased dramatically over the last 20 years.

Methylphenidate, first synthesized by the chemist Leandro Panizzon, was named after his wife, Rita, and marketed as Ritalin® in 1954. Ritalin® was initially used to treat depression and chronic fatigue before being used in the 1960s to treat children and adults with ADD/ADHD. Today, methylphenidate can be found in long-acting capsules (once daily dosage) under the name Concerta® or Biphentin®.

Persons with ADD/ADHD have difficulty concentrating and completing activities with varying degrees of complexity. They often find it difficult to remain still and frequently act on impulse.

Of course, these behaviours may be present in all individuals; however, they occur in a more abnormally pronounced manner and for extended periods of time with ADD/ADHD sufferers. These symptoms also appear in all life situations (not only at school or at home, for example).

The cerebral stimulation triggered by Ritalin® helps transmit messages between the brain’s nerve cells, thus improving concentration and memory, while managing anger and frustration. This drug must be introduced gradually (with a slow increase in dosage) to diminish the onset of side effects, with loss of appetite, sleep problems and irritability being the most frequent. The new, long-acting capsules also help control symptoms, while making it easier to swallow the medication.

Nevertheless, the treatment of ADD/ADHD must not focus solely on medication. A psychosocial approach that includes establishing a well-organized schedule or adding educational activities, as needed, will facilitate the patient’s adaptation. Also, “Attentix,” a program developed by a Québec psychologist (www.attentix.ca), is available to parents and educators. To ensure the best treatment, it is impor-tant to accurately distinguish between ADD/ADHD and Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), which share behavioural similarities.

Controversy has surrounded the growing use of Ritalin® since the early 1990s. Some believe that the explosion in demand for this drug is due to the insistence of the patient’s family. This should therefore be justified by a steady increase in ADD/ADHD cases, but it appears that the behavioural problem today is not significantly greater than it was in the past.

Others believe that the increased use of Ritalin® is due to a better understanding of the disorder and thus a better diagnosis. An ADD/ADHD diagnosis must include several evaluations to eliminate other problems, such as depression, anxiety or hearing loss. The observations of parents and teachers play an important role.

The advantages and disadvantages of treating ADD/ADHD with
Ritalin® are multiple. It is important to limit its use to children who really need the drug. The treatment of ADD/ADHD helps ensure adequate social functioning, and the use of medication remains one solution among other options. For more information, consult your pharmacist.

References:
- RIOUX-SOUCY, Louise-Maude. Article in Le Devoir, published on June 11, 2005; Web page consulted June 13, 2011: http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/84019/du-ritalin-pour-la-vie
- Centre l’étape du bassin de Maskinongé – Centre communautaire d’intervention en dépendance; Web site consulted June 13, 2011: http://www.etape.qc.ca/drogues/ritalin.htm
- Wikipedia (methylphenidate page); Web site consulted June 13, 2011:
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9thylph%C3%A9nidate

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