March 13, 2003
Ritalin For Children Reduces Later Alcohol and Drug Abuse

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


Comments
Mary Ann Clapp said at June 2, 2003 1:35 PM:

Dear Mr. Parker; A wonderfuly researched, and intriguing artical. Caught my attention. I'm a 44 YR. old woman married 26 years, 4 grown sons, Randy, Phillip, Richard, and Nicholas. I have diagnosed ADHD. Have, sad to say, only the last 10 yrs. Never heard of such a thing. (Telling my age a-bit) but anyhow sir, I'm greatful for what the medicines do for me, I'd been adopted and about 8 yrs ago, I found my bilogical family, so talking about Genetics, @ The dare I say hope of 1 day perhaps some of us may actually, be treated. I love watching Discovery Health channel. The list of persons who'd benefit would be endless, because not only do I have ADHD but also a high risk for Diabetes and Heart troubles, I don't like taking the meds. I do but I couldn't function well enough to keep a job, as I do. Without them, I also dislike the stigma one must endure having to take a drug in the amphetamine family. It's humiliating and embarassing. I very interested in this posibility, could you provide more information? I'd appreciate hearing back from you. Thanks... Sincerely MAC

David Roberts said at June 11, 2005 12:00 AM:

Are you a Dr. or have ADHD? I do, have ADHD, and my parents forced me to take Ritalin at a very young age. I have a substace abuse problem now. Also suffer from sever depresion and anxity. And after i quit taking Ritalin, because it made me feel funny. This is when my depresion started, Then I started self medicating my self with Alcohol then one thing lead to another and I started using drugs. Just to make me feel normal. I just want to know if in some cases that Ritalin may incress chances of drug or alcohol abuse? My counseler said that his studys show differnt. Hope you answere.
Thankyou,
David W. Roberts

justin ryan said at November 9, 2005 12:45 PM:

i am a 33 year old adult adhd suffering from the addiction to meth caused by 10 years of ritalin forced on me as a child of 6yrs.please send me some info on who is responsible to give me my life back!i have the medical history to proove!!!!

justin ryan said at November 9, 2005 12:45 PM:

i am a 33 year old adult adhd suffering from the addiction to meth caused by 10 years of ritalin forced on me as a child of 6yrs.please send me some info on who is responsible to give me my life back!i have the medical history to proove!!!!

hitesh said at June 6, 2009 3:49 AM:

i think my parents giving me alcohol quitting medicine without telling me and i m reacting to alcohol my face and my body turn red wht can i do

jason propst said at February 9, 2010 10:10 AM:

My brother is now 42 years old. He was diagnosed with adhd as a child and took Ritalin for years. He's now, as he's been his entire adult life, a drug addict. He has been through rehabilitation incessantly with no success. He's in and out of the prison system for doing nothing more than being addicted to drugs, making it impossible to break free of parole and the grip of the state. It's cost him his freedom (in many more ways than you can imagine) and it's cost me a big brother.

"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."

Could it be that they just missed being on drugs; once you're off Ritalin you need something else? Might it also mean that the older they get the lower the percentage; 5.8 becomes 1.5 becomes 0 and then even becomes MORE LIKELY? It also seems logical that learning to take drugs as a child would eventually equate to the practice in later years; be it prescribed or otherwise. And do those studies indicate how many of the adults who didn't suffer SUD were on prescriptions?

Studies like this should be scrutinized by advocates and opposition many times before given any relevance. I don't know the sources of your meta-analysis, but it seems to me that the majority of studies conducted would have been by the drug companies themselves, the only party with enough funded interest, and therefore bias.

Thanks for your irresponsible article.

jason propst said at February 9, 2010 10:21 AM:

A world-renowned Harvard child psychiatrist whose work has helped fuel an explosion in the use of powerful antipsychotic medicines in children earned at least $1.6 million in consulting fees from drug makers from 2000 to 2007 but for years did not report much of this income to university officials, according to information given Congressional investigators.

By failing to report income, the psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Biederman, and a colleague in the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Timothy E. Wilens, may have violated federal and university research rules designed to police potential conflicts of interest, according to Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. Some of their research is financed by government grants.

Again... thanks for your irresponsible article.

jason propst said at February 9, 2010 10:24 AM:

That was from a NY Times article, JUNE 8 2008... you should really consider removing this ridiculous article.

Bob Badour said at February 9, 2010 10:56 AM:

Why? If Randall removes the article, he also removes your platform to set the record straight.

Would it not make more sense to request an update to the article pointing out the alleged ethics violations?

Post a comment
Comments:
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
URL:
Remember info?

                       
Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright