Ritalin is safe for children, claim scientists
A DRUG used to control hyperactivity in children does not cause brain damange, according to new research.
Ritalin decreases activity in the brain and is prescribed to children with attention deficit disorder (ADD).
The number of youngsters in Scotland given the drug has tripled in the past ten years, and it has been estimated that one in 20 now has the condition. Ritalin has previously been linked to a range of side-effects, including swelling, stroke, stunted growth, heart problems and insomnia. Some studies claimed it increased the chances of drug addiction and suicide in some older patients.
Some health experts and parents have called for a reduction in the use of the drug, saying it “sedates” youngsters too much.
Experts carried out extensive tests on monkeys and found the medication had no side-effects, which they say supports growing evidence that the drug is safe.
They found long-term treatment with stimulants such as Ritalin does not damage mental ability or increase vulnerability to future drug abuse or mental health issues. Latest figures show the amount of Ritalin dispensed in Scotland rose from 22,402 in 2001 to 64,060 last year, at an additional cost of £1.5 million.
Study leader Dr Linda Porrino, of Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, looked at 16 adolescent monkeys given either a daily dose of Ritalin or a control pill. After a year of treatment and a further five-month period with no pills, the animals’ weight, growth and brain chemicals were unaffected.
Dr Porrino said: “These findings directly address three major areas of concern… physical growth, brain system development and future vulnerability to substance abuse.”
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