Some people argue about whether Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is overdiagnosed. The use of Ritalin on children is linked to a larger debate on whether the mind's function can be explained as a bunch of biochemistry and electrical patterns. The argument against evolutionary psychology on the grounds that evolutionary psychology relies upon "an evolutionary past which is permanently inaccessible to empirical research" is not persuasive because the evolutionary past really is scientifically accessible in a number of ways. For instance, comparative DNA sequence analysis within and across species combined with measures of various attributes can yield a great deal of useful information about selective pressures that must have acted on humans and other species (e.g. mutations that provide resistance to particular illnesses are found in people from parts of the world where those diseases are endemic).
While the debate continues about whether various aspects of human nature are genetically specified the reductionist neurobiologists continue to find ways to manipulate the mind biochemically. While the rate of occurrence of AHDH is debated the use of Ritalin has recently been found to have long term effects on behavior.
A study by researchers at Harvard University has provided more evidence that using stimulant medications such as methylphenidate to treat children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may reduce their risk of developing drug and alcohol use disorders later in life.
Dr. Timothy Wilens, lead investigator, and colleagues used a statistical method called meta-analysis (an examination of whether data compiled from multiple scientific studies provides evidence for statistical significance) to evaluate the relationship between stimulant therapy and subsequent substance use disorders (SUD) in youths with ADHD. After searching the literature for studies of children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD that had information on childhood exposure to stimulant therapy and later SUD outcomes, the researchers applied meta-analyses to six long-term studies. Two studies followed patients into adolescence and four followed patients into young adulthood. These studies comprised data from 674 youths receiving medication therapy for ADHD and 360 unmedicated youths with ADHD. Of those receiving medications, 97 percent were taking the stimulants methylphenidate or amphetamine.
From the compiled data, researchers found that youths with ADHD who were treated with stimulants had an almost two-fold reduction in the risk for developing SUD when compared with youths with ADHD who did not receive stimulants. Examination of each study individually suggested that stimulant medications might have a protective effect against the development of SUD.
Analysis of studies that reported follow-up into adolescence revealed that youths treated with stimulants were 5.8 times less likely to develop SUD than those not treated. However, analysis of studies that followed subjects into adulthood found that those treated with stimulants were about 1.5 times less likely to develop SUD. The researchers say that the less robust effect during adulthood may have occurred because the patients discontinued stimulant treatment when they reached a certain age or that parents may closely monitor the medications of youths with ADHD.
Overall, treating ADHD pharmacologically appears to reduce the risk of substance abuse by half. Untreated, ADHD is associated with a two-fold increased risk for developing a substance abuse disorder. Hence, while not truly immunizing against substance abuse, treating ADHD pharmacologically reduces the risk for drug and alcohol abuse and addiction to the level of risk faced by the general population. The report's findings are among the most robust in child psychiatry demonstrating a protective effect of pharmacological treatment on reducing the risk for later substance abuse.
The study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is published in the January 6, 2002, issue of Pediatrics.
Think about some of the implications if this report turns out to be correct. A drug has been identified that will affect the development of the mind in such a way that it produces behavior which is more adaptive. Surely this will not be the last such drug found.
It may turn out that gene therapy will not be necessary in order to cause children to develop different personalities or higher intelligence. Surely gene therapy will turn out to be a more powerful technique than drug use. But if drug use alone can affect cognitive development in a way that is not damaging then engineering of personality types may become more widespread more quickly.
It is possible that Ritalin's effect works for only as long as the drug is taken. It may block pleasure caused by other drugs or may provide some of the same pleasure and therefore reduce the size of the increase in pleasure caused by recreational drugs.
The reason it is plausible that Ritalin may have enduring effects is that during adolescence the human mind undergoes a lot of growth and reorganization. Drugs taken during that time that affect mental state likely affect the pattern of connections that form and hence should have lasting effects. Also, an injectable protein has already demonstrated the ability to enhance learning in rats. It should be possible to develop drugs that will affect gene expression of assorted proteins involved in nerve growth and therefore to change the course of brain development during adolescence.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2003 March 13 03:14 PM Brain Addiction|