• moderate-to-severe distractibility
• short attention span
The widespread use of Ritalin in children is not without controversy. Some experts are vehemently opposed to medicating children who are deemed to be inattentive or active for a "normal" classroom. However, there is no specific evidence that clearly establishes the mechanism by which Ritalin produces its mental and behavioral effects in children. Because a diagnosis of ADHD itself is not always straightforward, critics argue that far too many children who are simply extremely energetic are given a diagnosis of ADHD and medicated.
A doctor should prescribe Ritalin only after medical, psychological, behavioral, and educational assessments. The doctor or therapist should talk both to parents and the child and get information from teachers before prescribing stimulants.
Closely monitored treatment with stimulants (Ritalin is one of four commonly prescribed, and its use has increased 700 percent in one decade) can erase enough symptoms of ADHD to eliminate the diagnosis for 82 to 85 percent of children. While most parents give their children a typical twice-daily dose, one recent government study suggests that three times a day works better, with a nighttime dose about half the size of the first two.
It may take up to one month for the medication to achieve its maximum effect in children, and 30 minutes to take effect in adults. Medications like Ritalin are usually taken for as long as it is helpful or necessary. While there has been an increase in the number of stimulant prescriptions for children under five, there is no evidence that these drugs are safe or effective when used on young children.
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