Authors: Jason Y. C. CHAN, Talisa A. DENNIS & Melissa A. MACLEOD
Methylphenidate (Ritalin), the current leading form of treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), has seen a dramatic increase in prescription rate over the past ten years. No contemporary biological basis for ADHD diagnosis results in physicians making their diagnoses based on behavioural symptoms such as hyperactivity and inability to focus. Considering that these symptoms are behaviours that anyone may express at one point in their life, the risk of over-diagnosis of the disease increases. This may subsequently lead to over-prescription of Ritalin. This paper aims to evaluate and identify the causes and effects of Ritalin over-prescription. Key literature on ADHD reveals that the diagnostic criteria for ADHD has undergone various modifications since the disease was first identified; therefore, different experts may have different opinions on what are regarded as symptoms of the disorder. Furthermore, recent research has demonstrated that Ritalin can increase cognitive performance in both healthy individuals and in ADHD patients. Such data indicates that Ritalin has the potential to be abused by healthy individuals looking to increase their cognitive performance. Correspondingly, Ritalin has been reported to be used by college students to boost their academic performance. In addition, the over-prescription of Ritalin raises several ethical issues: as children are the most common age group to be diagnosed with the disease, critics question whether prescribing a drug for a behaviourally based diagnosed disease is appropriate; also it is thought that the drug may affect the originality and creativity of the children which may hinder their personal development. While alternative behavioural therapy is available for the disorder, it tends to be more expensive and time consuming than a drug prescription; this may explain why Ritalin remains the dominant form of treatment. This paper concludes that the prescription of drugs for ADHD should be cautioned and that more time and resources should be invested on developing consistent diagnostic criteria as well as potential alternative treatments to drugs for the disorder.
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