Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Ritalin is one of several trade names for the chemical methylphenidate which has been used since the 1960s to treat hyperactive children. It seems to work by raising the amount of Dopamine in the brain, which generates a feeling of contentedness and improves the ability to concentrate.

Here's two shocking statistics:

1) In 1990, just 9000 children in the UK aged 8-13 were being treated with Ritalin type drugs to try and improve their behaviour. By 1997 that figure had risen by a factor of ten to 90 000 and by 2010, 650 000 children between 8 and 13 were taking Ritalin, ie the numbers have increased by 70 times in the last twenty years.

2) An educational pschologist has said something sensible. Dave Traxson has warned that they are being over prescribed.

I'd say that Ritalin pills are being given out like Smarties. One of the things I went on about in my book was the fact that I had noticed how when any of these kids with 'behavioural problems' were given plenty of exercise outdoors for two or three days on the trot, all these 'problems' simply disappeared.

Try the following experiment:

Get up in the morning and drink two cups of tea or coffee. Now try and concentrate on something non physical like reading or writing. Chances are you feel a bit jittery, nervous and easily distracted. Now go out for a walk, run, swim or bike ride for an hour or so then return to the same task. You feel much more calm and able to concentrate.

I think that this is exactly the effect that Ritalin has. Trouble is, it's easier to give your child a pill.


jaljen said...

I have seen it work spectacularly well. I have also seen parents press for its use for children with whom the school had no trouble at all. Odd. And other clear cases where the child just needed proper discipline.

But even if it has a placebo effect with some then I'm in favour. I'm sure it's easier for the GP to dole these out than retrain the parents. How many parents have I ever managed to reprogram? Hm.

Anonymous said...

I have no interest in whether something the kids aren't doing would work just as well or better. My only interest would be - does the Ritalin WORK? I.e. does it achieve the desired effect, in that it control the behaviour of these scum to the point that they're not adversely affecting the education of other, worthier children? If the answer is yes, it works, I have no problem handing out like Smarties. I'll even pay for it... oh, hang on, I already do.

My only problem with Ritalin would be if it didn't work. I *might*, possibly, have a problem with it if it had some side-effects, like, for instance, giving the kids on it cancer or making them sterile.

I said I *might* have a problem wit that.

Anonymous said...

When I was at school we had a good hour of games every day - plus a good dose of discipline - no Ritalin needed.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Over-prescribed and with little regard for long term side effects. I teach several kids who are prescribed ritalin. They also skip breakfast, spend the day sipping red bull/monster energy drinks, spend their lunch money on cakes and biscuits, and brag about having stayed up playing xbox until 3am.

I'm not saying ADHD doesn't exist, but surely lifestyle changes should be firmly encouraged before resorting to psychotropic meds.

Dack said...

In umpteen years of teaching I reckon I've taught about 5 kids where I thought ritalin was a 'necessary/beneficial' option for them.

The rest - as anon says above. Plus not being used to have to do as they're told.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that you can claim disability or carers allowance if your child is prescribed ritalin? Idf so you can see why parents have been asking for it to be given to their child

I would agree with Chalk - lots of exercise and fresh air, that'll help them grow, body and mind!

Anonymous said...

It's worth pointing out that Ritalin is used as a litmus test for ADHD.
A neurotypical person will become worse whilst on it whereas an ADHD patient will not. Unfortunately better and worse are subjective.

ADHD is vastly overdiagnosed. A lot of kids just need a good slap, but there's always going to be a small number who really do need drugs.

Ulla Lauridsen said...

Also, diet. Really, there is a strong correlation between poor diet, especially not getting the right fats, and mental and behavioral problems. I'm pretty sure a healthy diet and exercise as mentioned would cure the vast majority.

Anonymous said...

Aside from the arguments about ADHD existence, we are obviously as a nation in an exponential epidemic situation.

Is it nature or nurture?
Has it always been there? I doubt it - If not, then something we are doing in society is causing it. Perhaps we should just start putting it in the water with the fluoride, then again, what good would that do, calm us teachers down of course. Of course - I've got it now, put it in every 2 litre bottle of coke.

Problem cured.