Attention Deficit Disorder, also known as ADD, ADHD, or simply hyperactivity, can be displayed among children, adolescents and even adults. “Doctors and educators often use the term ‘attention-deficit disorder’ (ADD) to describe the way certain children act in the classroom” (NIMH “A Treatment Study”). In loose terms, these children squirm in their seats, fiddle with their papers, fidget with their hands, and move around to the point that they disturb other children. “Not long ago, children who behaved in certain ways were called ‘bundles of energy,’ ‘daydreamers,’ or ‘fireballs.’ Now they’re considered ‘hyperactive,’ ‘distractible,’ or ‘impulsive’-victims of the ubiquitous Attention Deficit Disorder” (Armstrong). There are many different forms of treatment or approaches that are used to help children with ADD, including changing the child’s environment, parent counseling and behavior modification and the use of medication. Of all the different types of treatments, studies seem to focus mostly on stimulant medications. Ritalin is the most commonly used stimulant medication and is the best treatment because it has a calming and focusing effect, increases confidence and self-esteem, and it has low abuse potential.
Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD, refer “to a family of related chronic neurobiological disorders that interfere with an individual’s capacity to regulate activity level (hyperactivity), inhibit behavior (impulsivity), and attend to tasks (inattention) in developmentally appropriate ways” (NIMH “ADHD-Questions and Answers”). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, research shows that ADD tends to run in families, so it is likely to be genetic. At least one-third of all fathers, who had Attention Deficit Disorder growing up, have children with ADD. Attention Deficit Disorder is one of the most common mental disorders among children. It affects three to five percent of all children, which equals about two million American children. Also, boys are two to three times more likely affected than girls (“ADHD”).
The main symptoms of ADD include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Inattentive people have a hard time focusing on one task and may get bored with it after only a few minutes. Hyperactive people always seem to be in motion and can not sit still or they may do things like shaking their feet or tapping a pen on the table. Impulsive people are those who do not think about the consequences of their actions beforehand, even though they know the difference between right and wrong. Children with Attention Deficit Disorder have also shown specific learning problems involving word confusion, math, writing, spelling and reading. “Although both inattentiveness and impulsiveness do tend to get better as the child grows older, teenagers with ADHD continue to experience much greater difficulty than do other teenagers” (Greenberg 11). If untreated, as children with ADD grow older, they are more likely to experience drug abuse, antisocial behavior, conduct disorders and injuries.
Methylphenidate, also known as Ritalin, is a central nervous system stimulant and is not a new medication. In fact, it has been around for about thirty years and increasingly prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder. “Since 1990, Ritalin production is up 700 percent, and nearly 15 percent of America’s school-age children are using psychiatric prescription drugs” (Colgan 61).
Ritalin has effects similar to, yet more potent than caffeine and less potent than amphetamines. It has a notably calming effect on hyperactive children and a focusing effect on those with ADD. Life can be hard on children with Attention Deficit Disorder. Ritalin allows them to concentrate and finish the homework, which they were once not able to. Until recently, most studies involve the short-term effectiveness of stimulants. “There is no information on the long-term outcomes of medication-treated ADHD individuals in terms of educational and occupational achievements, involvement with the police, or other areas of social functioning” (NIMH “ADHD-Questions and Answers”).
First-hand experience, with children taking Ritalin, has influenced my opinion as to whether it is the right treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD. Working at an after school daycare, I have witnessed many temper tantrums and fights or arguments between children, as well as children and adults. Some, not all, of these children have either ADD or ADHD. On days where they have forgotten to take their medication, many of these incidences occur. I could definitely see a difference in their behavior and they do not seem like themselves. These children will lash out at other children and adults if they do not get their own way or like what they are told to do.
One incident sticks out in my mind; a boy threw a basketball at another boy for stealing the ball from him during a game. This boy was then told to go inside, sit down and put his head down. He then started to throw a temper tantrum, banged his head on the table and made his lip bleed. After threatening to send him up to the principal’s office, he calmed down a little. For the rest of the day though, he was upset and just not his normal self.
Life can be hard for children with Attention Deficit Disorder. ADD frustrates many children because of the fact that they can not concentrate and seem to always get into trouble, whether it is at home or in school. They also are shunned by a lot of children because of the way they act and treat others. Some children are even too quiet or shy, so children do not even bother talking to them. The results Ritalin has on children with ADD, gives them a good self-image and higher self-esteem. These children do not get into as much trouble, which means they are not always being yelled at or punished. Their grades improve along with their social skills. Other children will now talk and play with them. As previously stated, if untreated, as children with ADD grow older, they are more likely to experience drug abuse, antisocial behavior, conduct disorders and injuries.
A little girl in my mother’s Kindergarten class had trouble concentrating in school and always seemed to be in “la la land.” Once diagnosed with ADD and treated with Ritalin, she had no problems focusing during class. A direct result of this was her grades improving tremendously. She also began talking more during class and with the other children. It was obvious that her self-esteem had greatly improved.
“According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Ritalin is considered a Class II Drug and a controlled substance…like cocaine, methamphetamine and methadone” (Methylphenidate). A drug becomes a controlled substance when it has the potential for abuse or addiction, yet the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that people with ADD, taking stimulant medication do not become addicted when taken in the form and amount prescribed (“Methylphenidate”). New research from the National Institute of Health explains why this is true. Oral doses of Ritalin take about sixty minutes to reach its peak.
Concentration in the brain, compared to five minutes for cocaine or nine minutes for Ritalin taken intravenously. This is why people with Attention Deficit Disorder, taking Ritalin, do not experience a “high” from their medication and therefore do not abuse it (“New Research”).
There are many cases where people who do not need to take it, abuse Ritalin. When abused, in order to get “high”, Ritalin tends to be taken intravenously or snorted, showing the relevance of the form Ritalin it is taken in. The theft and abuse of these drugs overwhelmingly occurs in schools. A recent incident involved two teachers at a Tennessee school. These teachers had been caught stealing their students’ Ritalin. Also, in Georgia, investigators are looking into the theft of over four hundred pills between two schools. In these two incidences, investigators thought the pills had been stolen for personal use or for re-selling on the street or to other students (Colgan 62).
Ritalin is the most commonly used stimulant medication and is the best treatment because it has a calming and focusing effect, increases confidence and self-esteem, and it has low abuse potential. It has been around for many years and most commonly used to treat those with Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD. Although Ritalin is not the “cure” for ADD, it is the best treatment and easiest for both the parents and children to deal with. Taking a pill has no effect on the child’s daily routines. Where as, other treatments take a lot more time and effort on everyone’s part, such as counseling, behavior modification and environmental changes. A combination of Ritalin along with these other treatments is the best chance for a child with ADD to live a “normal,” and happy life. Ritalin alone is an enormous step in the right direction!