A recent study shows that children prescribed medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may experience social withdrawal and addictive behaviors later in life. The behavioral symptoms may transpire through the use of Ritalin, a stimulant prescribed to children as young as seven years of age to treat ADHD. The study’s conclusions may fuel the debate on whether ADHD is over diagnosed and Ritalin overprescribed, permanently altering the personalities of patients.
ADHD is a neurological condition characterized by substantial difficulty concentrating, controlling impulses, and sitting still, as explained in a previous article by Liberty Nation. A recent study from The Netherlands examined the effects of Ritalin on ADHD patients prescribed the medication since childhood, according to the scientific journal NeuroImage: Clinical. Psychiatrist Dr. Holly VanScoy explains that Ritalin regulates the chemical dopamine in the brain, which is partly responsible for controlling impulses and hyperactivity. The Netherlands study found, however, that certain areas of the brains of patients prescribed Ritalin since childhood have poorer regulation of dopamine and, in effect, dependence on the medication for maintaining chemical balance compared to those prescribed Ritalin as adults. These findings hint to severe behavioral implications, including social withdrawal and addiction.
The areas of the brain Netherlands researchers found to form a dependence on Ritalin in young ADHD patients were the medial prefrontal cortex and the striatum. The dependence caused by Ritalin on the medial prefrontal cortices of these patients could produce social withdrawal behaviors similar to that of individuals with schizophrenia or autism, according to researchers from Oberlin College in Ohio. As reported in a previous article by Liberty Nation, the effects of Ritalin could also lead to addictive impulses and feelings of reward, characteristic of excessive gamblers. With the possibly permanent, long-term alterations incurred by the developing brain from Ritalin, The Netherlands study’s results may fuel the debate on the over diagnosis of ADHD on American youth.
Liberty Nation reports that ten percent of American children, including fifteen percent of boys, are diagnosed with ADHD. However, the American Psychiatric Association estimates that only five percent of children truly suffer from the disorder. Many scientists believe that the misdiagnosis of ADHD is causing detrimental behavioral effects on our nation’s young people. Researchers argue, however, that although the behavioral implications of Ritalin on children may prove unfavorable, Ritalin and other stimulants are the most effective treatment methods for ADHD patients when coupled with behavioral therapy, according to the Journal of European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
The Netherland researchers note that further investigation is necessary to confirm their findings that Ritalin may lead to social withdrawal and addictive impulses when prescribed to young children. Scientists continue to uncover the behavioral repercussions of stimulants on the developing brain to alert parents of the possible side effects to their children diagnosed with ADHD.
But for now, and for parents considering Ritalin use for their young children – this is important food for thought that may give them pause – and rightly so.