The Ritalin Report: The Drug that isnít Safe to use for Landfill (Part Three)

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

1. I believe that Ritalin can reasonably be described as potentially toxic. Ritalin has been described as `very safe' but for the record here is a list of some of the possible side effects which may be associated with Ritalin: nervousness, insomnia, decreased appetite, headache, drowsiness, dizziness, dyskinesia, blurring of vision, convulsions, muscle cramps, tics, Tourette's syndrome, toxic psychosis (some with visual and tactile hallucinations), transient depressed mood, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, tachycardia, palpitations, arrhythmias, changes in blood pressure and heart rate, angina pectoris, rash, pruritus, urticaria, fever, arthralgia, alopecia, thrombocytopenia purpura, exfoliative dermatitis, erythema multiforme, leucopenia, anaemia and minor retardation of growth during prolonged therapy in children.

2. Doctors who prescribe Ritalin, and who have the time and the inclination to read the warnings issued with the drug, will discover that Ritalin should not be given to patients suffering from marked anxiety, agitation or tension since it may aggravate these symptoms.

3. Ritalin is contraindicated in patients with tics, tics in siblings or a family history or diagnosis of Tourette's syndrome. It is also contraindicated in patients with severe angina pectoris, cardiac arrhythmias, glaucoma, thyrotoxicosis, or known sensitivity to methylphenidate, and it should be used cautiously in patients with hypertension (blood pressure should be monitored at appropriate intervals).

4. Ritalin should not be used in children under six years of age, should not be used as treatment for severe depression of either exogenous or endogenous origin. And it may exacerbate symptoms of behavioural disturbance and thought disorder if given to psychotic children.

5. It is claimed that taking Ritalin during childhood does not increase the likelihood of addiction but chronic abuse of Ritalin can lead to marked tolerance and dependence with varying degrees of abnormal behaviour.

6. Ritalin, it is warned, should be employed with caution in emotionally unstable patients, such as those with a history of drug dependence or alcoholism, because such patients may increase the dosage on their own initiative.

7. Ritalin should also be used with caution in patients with epilepsy since there may be an increase in seizure frequency.

8. Height and weight should be carefully monitored in children as prolonged therapy may result in growth retardation. (A child might lose several inches in possible height Ė though if treatment is stopped there is a generally a growth spurt). It is perhaps worth mentioning here my view that if a drug is powerful enough to retard growth it does not seem entirely unreasonable to suspect that the chances are high that it may be having other powerful effects upon and within the body.

9. Doctors are also warned that careful supervision is required during drug withdrawal, since depression as well as renewed over-activity can be unmasked. Long-term follow up may be needed for some patients.

10. There have also been reports that children have committed suicide after drug withdrawal. And one study has shown that children who are treated with stimulants alone had higher arrest records and were more likely to be institutionalised.

11. Long-term use of Ritalin has been said to cause irritability and hyperactivity (these are, you may remember, the problems for which the drug is often prescribed). In a study published in Psychiatric Research and entitled `Cortical Atrophy in Young Adults With A History of Hyperactivity' brain atrophy was reported in more than half of 24 adults treated with psychostimulants (though I don't think anyone can say for sure whether or not the psychostimulants caused the brain atrophy the possible link should make prescribers, teachers and parents who are fans of Ritalin stop and think for a moment).

12. As an aside there has been some research done on mice. When early safety tests were done on mice, researchers found that the drug caused an increased in hepatocellular adenomas and, in male mice only, an increase in hepatoblastomas (described as `a relatively rare rodent malignant tumour type'). `The significance of these results to humans is unknown' we are told. (Here, once again, is yet more proof of the total worthlessness of animal experiments and the ruthless and cynical attitude shown by drug companies and those government departments which allegedly exist to protect the public from unsafe drugs. I have frequently argued that when drug companies perform pre-clinical tests on animals they do so knowing that if the tests show that a drug doesn't cause any problems when given to animals, they can use the results to help convince the authorities that the drug is safe. On the other hand, when a drug does cause a problem when given to animals, the results can be ignored on the grounds that `the significance of these results to humans is unknown'. The question here is a very simple one: if the experiments on mice which showed that Ritalin causes cancer were of value why is the drug still available on prescription for children? And if the experiments can safely be ignored (on the grounds that animals are so different to human beings that the results are irrelevant) why were the tests done in the first place? I don't expect any answers. I just like asking the questions.

End of Part Three
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