Dangerous drugs used to treat ADHD

More and more children are being medicated

As the number of children that doctors diagnose as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has increased, so has the number of American children receiving what many feel to be dangerous drugs to treat the disorder.

Between 1997 and 2002, the number of children that doctors diagnosed with ADHD rose 33 percent up to 4.4 million. By 2007, that number was 5.4 million. Doctors have diagnosed about 10 percent of all children aged four to 17 in the country with ADHD.

The diagnosis of ADHD and its treatment have been controversial. Critics point to the sudden rise of ADHD diagnoses to demonstrate that teachers and doctors have been too quick to label a child as suffering from ADHD.

While this remains a matter for debate, the dangers of ADHD drugs are real. Families and their loved ones suffering from dangerous drugs that a doctor prescribed to treat ADHD may wish to consult a drug attorney for more information on their legal rights.

How ADHD Drugs Work

Doctors diagnose ADHD in children who are inattentive and hyperactive. In many cases, the drugs that doctors prescribe to treat ADHD are stimulants, which work by increasing dopamine levels in the brains of children.
A common drug that doctors use to treat ADHD is Ritalin, which significantly increases dopamine levels. The increase in dopamine stimulates the user’s ability to concentrate and complete tasks. The tasks appear more exciting and motivating as a result of Ritalin use.

Ritalin also suppresses other brain signals that are not involved in the task at hand. In other words, it helps the brain transmit clearer signals with less background noise, which serves as a distraction. This suppression function also helps to enable Ritalin users to concentrate on the task at hand.

The Dangers of Ritalin

Research that the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute of Mental Health sponsored found that the use of drugs like Ritalin increases the risk of sudden death by 500% amongst children and teenagers.

Some of the other dangers that Ritalin poses include the following:

  • Ritalin users may develop irregular beats, or arrhythmias, even if they have never had heart problems because of the way the stimulant works on their bodies.
  • They may suffer from toxic liver problems, the symptoms of which are jaundice, fatigue, muscle pain and abdominal pain.
  • The long term use of Ritalin may stunt the growth of children by affecting hormonal development and production.
  • A loss of appetite is a common side effect or Ritalin. This too plays a role in stunting children’s growth because of the importance of nutrition during children’s development.
  • Experts have warned about the link between Ritalin and severe depression. Parents and doctors should monitor children taking Ritalin closely for any signs of depression or suicidal thoughts.

One trend that has alarmed some has been the number of young children receiving prescription drugs to treat ADHD. From 2000 to 2003, the number of children under five receiving ADHD drugs increased 369 percent.

Finally, long term studies on the use of ADHD drugs like Ritalin are lacking. Experts do not know enough about how Ritalin affects its users over a long period of time. Some long term concerns are that prolonged use may lead to dependence on the drug, paranoia, schizophrenia, delusions and hallucinations.

Though Ritalin is one of the more popular drugs used to treat ADHD, other ones pose many of the same problems. These drugs include the name brands Metadate, Concerta, Dexedrine, Adderall, Desoxyn and Vyvanse.

For more information on the dangers that ADHD drugs pose to children, contact an attorney experienced in pursuing a dangerous drug claim at Cappolino | Dodd | Krebs, LLP.