Methylphenidate is the generic form of the brand name drugs generally used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD. Under the brand names of Concerta, Ritalin and Metadate-ER, these drugs are working to improve the most commonly studied childhood disorder today. Acting as a central nervous system stimulant, methylphenidate improves the regular and sustained release of dopamine, in the brain, thereby improving the symptoms so commonly associated with ADHD in children. Understanding the statistics of methylphenidate usage in children and the potential positive and negative side effects, will aide parents in addressing the needs of the ADHD child.
Studies have shown, in normal healthy adult men, the use of methylphenidate improves the release of dopamine within the brain. This increased, and consistent, release of dopamine improved the attention and focus of the test group. In the treatment of ADHD children, it is believed the methylphenidate provides this same positive outcome. Classified as a Schedule II medication, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), requires strict guidelines in the prescribing, monitor and usage of the methylphenidate in ADHD children. Why is this? To understand, let’s first look at the statistics involving the administration of methylphenidate in ADHD children.
Usage of ADHD has significantly increased over the last several years. Reports indicate children are first diagnosed with ADHD in the three to five year old range with usage of methylphenidate common in children at the 8th grade level, showing 2.4 percent usage as compared to 12th graders using the methylphenidate as often as 4.4 percent. What is the cause of this increase? The positive side effects!
As with most prescription medications, the use of methylphenidate comes with negative side effects but, first, let’s examine the positive side effects. Decreasing the potential abuse of drugs and alcohol, even more so than the average adult population, improving concentration, improving academic performance, maintaining healthy weight and improving social skills, are all positive indications for continued use of methyphenidate by the ADHD child. So, what is the DEA’s basis for regulation? Negative side effects.
Side effects, of course, can be negative and may include insomnia, appetite suppression, lack of affect or expression of mood, nervousness, abdominal pain, headaches and changes in blood pressure. While these side effects are not uncommon, most will dissipate as tolerance to the methylphenidate is achieved. Because the ability to improve concentration and focus is important for the ADHD child, these same side effects may be sought by individuals with a history of alcohol and drug abuse and may even include teenagers and college students who commonly avoid sleep and need extended periods of focus to complete studies. In addition to these side effects, of particular concern is the side effect involving what is known as “rebound”. Rebound is the negative side effect, usually exhibited as a severely depressed mood, which occurs as the end of the sustained release cycle. For ADHD children taking methylphenidate, in sustained release, the rebound ordinarily occurs as the end of the day when the medication begins to wear off. As a parent, the key to improving the symptoms of the rebound affect involve ensuring your child is properly monitored and provided emotional and physical support. Rebound side effects normally disappear within an hour of onset.
As the parent of an ADHD child, the focus is to provide the best possible environment to ensure social, emotional, physical and academic peak performance. With the additional of methylphenidate, the outcomes of this childhood disorder are significantly improved.