Last Updated 31 Jan 2023

Study of the Use of Ritalin for Children With ADHD Syndrome

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When kids are growing up people monitor their behavior more than anything. Some kids often have problems with being hyperactive and struggling to pay attention, resulting in the thought that they possibly have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.) ADHD is not just when someone is a child, it can become a lifelong struggle they may have to deal with. Studies have found that a drug named methylphenidate also known as Ritalin, can help improve one’s ADHD symptoms. Although, some parents may jump to conclusions thinking just because their child has a few of these symptoms they automatically have ADHD which is not always the case. With that being said, parents go to the doctor resulting in them prescribing Ritalin even if it is possibly just a phase in their childhood. Which brings me to the question, is Ritalin overprescribed?

Review of Literature

In the first study, they gathered twenty five ADHD boys and fifteen normal boys ranging in age from six to twelve years old. The study took place at University of California Los Angeles over a five-week summer enrichment research program. Their days involved classroom projects, outdoor play, athletic events, and computer tasks during the six-hour days. They had tests on their attention, cognition, social interaction, and group cognitive behavioral training specifically for the ADHD boys. When the first week came around they began to start a medication trial, consisting of not being medicated on Monday and Tuesday then on Wednesday through Friday they would get their daily dose.

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As the boys were starting to know each other they were both medicated and non-medicated. They gave out medicine once in the morning and then once before lunch. The individual dosages had been prepared by a pharmacist to nearest 2.5 milligram and were in capsules to disguise when they would be placebo or not (Whalen, et al. 545-547). They had peer judgements where they would ask the boys who was the most fun to be with, who causes trouble, who seemed sad, who was tall, and so on. The response to these overall had answers in each category. Over the program time, there was no evidence found of changes due to the familiarity with peers and adaption. Although, the dosage effects indicated that Ritalin improved the ADHD boys peer status and the higher the dose the more impact it created (Whalen, et al. 547).

The second study nine children took active drug in the first fifteen-week time and then the placebo in the following fifteen-weeks while nine children received these treatments in the opposite order (Rie, Rie, Stewart, & Ambuel 1976 314-315). The study included eighteen children from Columbus Children’s Hospital and local schools. The referral information included a six-month struggle in reading as well as an IQ of eighty-five or above; they children could not have had any prior trials of medication because of their underachievement problems. On the children’s first visit they had an all over physical, psychological evaluation, and a parent conference with the consent of their parents.

The pharmacy would assign individual children to an active drug or placebo without knowing the project staff. The first dose differed from five or ten milligrams a day, based on the child’s size, history of medication response, and possible side effects of Ritalin. They would base the upping of the dosage over the side effects happening so far and phone calls, although the dosage was never than twenty milligrams with some being lowered to under ten milligrams each day to a five due to side effects (Rie, Rie, Stewart, & Ambuel 1976 316). In reconsideration, doses were that six children took more than one milligram each day while ten took half to one milligram each day and two took less than half a milligram each day.

The teachers would do a rating scale over behavior as well as the parents would. Each study procedures were replicated after fifteen weeks and again after thirty weeks, excluding the items or measures which could not be changed such as the child’s background. Once the third study of each child was finished, all information was gathered and parent conferences had been in place with the child psychologist. The scale they were based off of was called the Behavior Rating Scale, it was for the use of parents and teachers to rate the study. It consisted of thirty-five items all equally among seven sub-scales to help the judgments of activity level, achievement, attention, disruptiveness, distractibility, need-achievement, and sociability (Rie, Rie, Stewart, & Ambuel 1976 316-317).

The results from the study were that there was no effect of drug being observed on variables in which were assessed did not appear on the table. In short, teachers seemed to find improvements in both groups at first, no matter the treatment. The parents ratings showed no drug effects although, they observed while the children were unaffected by Ritalin. There was improvements on the subtest on ITPA Auditory Closure. With that being said, there was no other drug effects observed in the behavior area, scholastic achievement, or other psychologic functions.

In the last study it went over the misuse of Ritalin in college students. Prescriptions are seemed to be safe and efficacious for lowering the symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity for treating ADHD. Stimulants are commonly recommended as a treatment for children, adolescents, adults, and even college students with an ADHD disorder. Sadly, since a lot of students attending college suffer from ADHD, the misuse of prescriptions have grown tremendously.

Studies show that the reasoning of the misuse is cognitive and academic enhancement received from taking such stimulants. Although, they found disinhibition and conduct problems symptoms conflicted with the association in ADHD and the misuse of individuals. They noticed that one is at higher odds of stimulant misuse whom have been prescribed Ritalin to treat ADHD. Research does show that Ritalin and other medications prescribed for ADHD did improve in the areas needed though. Past research shows the improvements in people’s attention without ADHD with using such medication (Weyandt, et al. 2016 401-403).


Different studies show different looks on the question if Ritalin is overprescribed. Ritalin can be used for good ways but should not be a lifelong alternative. As shown in the first study, Ritalin did help improve children’s attention to things. The second study showed that there had been some changes with their attentive p but it did not improve tremendously based over the medications. They found that there had been improvement whether they had been on Ritalin or if they were on the placebo pill. The last study showed how using Ritalin while being a child can cause one to have stimulant misuse trying to find something to help their struggle with being attentive.

As well as from being used to depending on medication to feel “normal” resulted in them turning to other prescriptions. Lastly, the use of Ritalin has both positive and negative aspects. As doctors should be more careful on resulting to medication when they first find ADHD in children. There are alternatives such as cognitive therapy and other types of therapy that may help before prescribing children a lifelong dependent on Ritalin to feel how people say they should. Overall, Ritalin is overprescribed to where it is causing children to grow into young adults relying on pills for something that does have alternative treatments.

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