The use of medications in children has exploded in recent decades, mostly due to the high prevalence of ADD and ADHD diagnoses. Methylphenidate (Ritalin) is a nervous system stimulant and the most commonly prescribed drug for children with ADHD. Since the early 1990s, the number of prescriptions written for methylphenidate has increased by a factor of five. The production of Adderall and Dexedrine, also quite commonly given to children, has also risen.
There are many concerns surrounding the use of Class II controlled substances in children. Some of these drugs, including Ritalin, have not been tested for the safety or effectiveness of long term use in pediatric patients. Another major concern is the possibility of addiction; high doses over a period of time have been shown to produce dependence. It is possible to develop a tolerance to the drug, so that higher doses are necessary to produce the original effect.
Common side effects of Ritalin can include insomnia, nervousness, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, weight loss, and abnormally fast heart beat. Even worse, this drug does nothing to address the underlying neurological issues associated with ADD or ADHD.