Academic journal article Education

Ritalin Update for Counselors, Teachers, and Parents

Academic journal article Education

Ritalin Update for Counselors, Teachers, and Parents

Article excerpt

Ritalin is the most frequently prescribed medication for the treatment of individuals who have attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD) (NIDA, 2001). It is also prescribed for narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. Ritalin has been found to be safe in the treatment of these conditions. The child must take the medication as ordered by his/her medical provider and be carefully monitored by the medical provider. As useful as Ritalin is for these conditions, it has great potentials for abuse. Counselors, teachers, and parents must know the facts regarding the safe use of Ritalin, as well as the unsafe use of Ritalin. Therefore, this article will provide counselors, teachers, and parents with information regarding the therapeutic and non-therapeutic use of Ritalin.

Brief Overview of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), once called hyperkinesis or minimal brain dysfunction, is one of the most common mental disorders among children (U.S.-National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Mental Health [U.S.-NIH.NIMH], 1994). It is characterized by inattention, distractibility, impulsivity, and restlessness. ADHD symptoms impair the child's ability to function at home, in school, and in the community (Valente, 2001).


The exact etiology is unknown; but current research supports a neurobiological foundation (Buncher, 1996). Genetics plays a role. Yet, there are etiologic contributors who believe that adverse responses to food additives, intolerances to foods, sensitivities to environmental chemicals, molds, and fungi, and exposures to neurodevelopmental toxins such as heavy metals and organohalide pollutants (Kidd, 2000)may contribute to the disorder. Thyroid hypofunction also has been found to be a common denominator linking toxic insults with ADHD symptomatolgies (Kidd, 2000). Additionally, abnormalities in the frontostriatal brain circuitry and possible hypofunctioning of dopaminergic path ways are apparent in ADHD, and are consistent with the benefits obtained in some instances by the use of Ritalin and other potent psychostimulants (Kidd, 2000). Finally, nutrient deficiencies are common in ADHD; supplementation with minerals, the B vitamins (added in singly), omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, flavonoids, and the essential phospholipid phosphatidylserine (PS) can ameliorate ADHD symptoms (Kidd, 2000).

Another theory once believed was that refined sugar and food additives make children hyperactive and inattentive. As a result, parents were encouraged to stop serving children foods containing artificial flavorings, preservative, and sugars. In 1982, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Federal agency responsible for biomedical research, held a major scientific conference to discuss this issue. After studying the data, these scientists concluded that the restricted diet only seemed to help about 5 percent of children with ADHD, mostly either young children or children with allergies (U.S.-NIH.NIMH, 1994). It was also believed by these researchers that ADHD is not usually caused by: too much TV, food allergies, excess sugar, poor home life, and poor schools.


ADHD affects three to five percent of all children, perhaps as many as two million American children (U.S.-NIH.NIMH, 1994). Other estimates suggest that at least five million "hyperactive" children in the United States, with three to ten percent of school-age children having some degree of learning disabilities (Warner, 1995). Data seem to support gender differences in prevalence of ADHD. Two to three times more boys than girls are affected (U.S.-NIH.NIMH, 1994). On the average, at least one child in every classroom in the United States needs help for the disorder (U.S.-NIH.NIMH, 1994). ADHD often continues into adolescence and adulthood (U.S.-NIH.NIMH, 1994).

Long Consequence of ADHD

It is estimated that only one-third to one-half of the children with ADHD outgrow their behavior (Warner, 1995). …

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