While most researchers do not question the effectiveness of Ritalin in the treatment of ADHD some are starting to worry about its long term effects. Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a very popular pharmaceutical drug used to treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. It is estimated that ADHD affects five per cent of all boys and two per cent of all girls worldwide. A large number of adults also suffer from this condition. People with ADHD have a very short attention span, tend to be impulsive and jittery, and constantly move around. Ritalin is very effective in suppressing ADHD and is widely prescribed in the United States where production increased five-fold during the period 1990 to 1995. Dr. Nora Volkow at the Brookhaven National Laboratory found that Ritalin has an almost identical effect to that of cocaine when given by injection. She is concerned that Ritalin use in childhood may lead to cocaine abuse later on, but admits that she has no evidence of this. Nadine Lambert, a psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley, followed the progress of 5000 children from adolescence into adulthood and found that children who took Ritalin are more likely to smoke as adults. Susan Schenk of Texas A&M University found that Ritalin-treated children are three times more likely to become cocaine users later in life than are children not taking the drug. Other scientists dismiss these findings and cite studies which have found no difference in substance abuse among children treated with Ritalin and controls. Nevertheless, the questions surrounding the increasing concern about prescribing Ritalin to children has prompted the U.S. National Institutes of Health to call a conference on the subject to be held in November 1998.
Motluk, Alison. Calm before the storm. New Scientist, April 18, 1998, pp. 18- 19