Ritalin is one of the medications commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It stimulates the central nervous system by increasing dopamine in the brain. This increase is associated with attention, movement, and to a small extent, pleasure. When a therapeutic level is reached, the patient’s hyperactivity decreases and they are able to cope with daily stresses as well as concentrate on tasks.
In narcolepsy, drugs like Provigil, Modafinil and Ritalin help to keep the brain stimulated so the patient is able to stay awake and focus on tasks at hand. Without this help, many narcoleptic patients fall asleep in class, the grocery store, behind the wheel of a car, you get the picture. Taken as prescribed it is a useful drug.
Among the controversies surrounding Ritalin is the possibility of the ADHD adolescent patient becoming addicted to stimulants and other drugs later in life. Several studies have been done suggesting that when taken as prescribed, Ritalin has neither an addictive effect nor leads to drug abuse by the patient.
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There can be unpleasant side effects to Ritalin, even when the taken as prescribed by both the ADHD or narcoleptic patient. Short term effects can be insomnia, nervousness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, headaches, changes in blood pressure, skin rashes and itching, weight loss, abdominal pain, psychotic episodes, drug dependence, and toxic psychosis. If taken off the medication too quickly, severe and sometimes suicidal depression can occur.
If Ritalin is abused in high doses (it is a stimulant) by the patient or someone else, effects similar to cocaine abuse can result. Among these is the sensation of bugs crawling under the skin, anxiety, severe loss of appetite leading to malnutrition, fevers, bad headaches, paranoia, hallucinations and delusions and more.
Choosing to use Ritalin is a personal decision for each family, one that must be thought out, researched and prayed about. For some children this approach works well, for others, it can be a horrible experience.
No one loves and knows your child like you do. May you find the wisdom to do what is right for your child.