Methylphenidate Hydrochloride Can Cause Lifelong Problems

My mom asked me if I wanted to take Ritalin when I was 11. She gave me a choice, but I’ll tell you exactly what choice I really had: I was a failure in school.

I couldn’t ever finish my classroom assignments on time, and it took the vast majority of my free time at home to complete homework assignments. My teachers made me stay in from recess to work on my schoolwork. I was kept from going to gym class, music class, and art class to work on my classroom assignments instead.

If first grade was tough, second grade was even harder, and a few months into my second year of school I quit. I’m told it took quite a bit of cajoling to get me to go back to school.

The public school system was never able to figure out what my problem was, despite a battery of tests. Those tests were good for nothing: they indicated that I was extremely smart. “Highly gifted” was the term back then. But, because I was so smart, teachers and administrators decided I must just be lazy.

School never got easier – until I started taking Ritalin.

I went to private school in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. The more personalized attention I received in private school helped me a little, but not enough. My parents brought me to a psychologist and I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder.

The year was 1988. It was before most people, especially teachers, had ever heard of ADD. It was before ADD became the diagnosis of choice for the behavioral-problem afflicted children of yuppy parents. It was before doctors understood even half of what they understand about ADD today. But professionals in the psych field were already being marketed the cure-all drugs known to help some kids with problems.

It was either Prozac or Ritalin. Why my parents chose Ritalin, I don’t know, but my mom did give me a choice. If I knew then what I know now I would have told her no. Ritalin has now been proven to permanently alter the brains of rats, leading to increased depressive behavior. (Biological Psychiatry, Dec. 15, 2003)

As far as I am concerned, it’s proof enough that I feel the same way as those rats after taking Ritalin too long.

I started taking 5 mg of Ritalin twice daily when I was in sixth grade. Before Ritalin, I had been unable to concentrate on my assignments in school and was known to spend hours staring at the same blank page of homework. After taking Ritalin for a few short weeks the change was dramatic: I was not the quickest kid in my class to finish my work, but I wasn’t the last either. For the first time in my life I felt successful and smart.

Unfortunately, I was going into adolescence. I was growing. My body soon needed more Ritalin to have the same beneficial effect. That problem paired itself with Ritalin’s tendency to plateau in victims, or patients, taking it.

For all of Ritalin’s benefits, my family quickly noticed it’s depressing effect on my personality. Where before Ritalin I had been a humorous and happy kid (at least, when I was out of school), I quickly developed a permanent frown. I don’t recall being particularly sad or angry, but Ritalin somehow managed to squeeze the joy of life right out of the sponge of my soul.

I had upped my dosage once during the time I was in the private middle school. With a 10 mg starter pill taken in the morning and a 5 mg pill taken at lunch, I rarely took the 5 mg suggested evening pill (so I could concentrate on my homework). I often didn’t take any Ritalin on the weekends, and I never did during the summer time. My mood quickly returned to “normal,” during my time off Ritalin, but by the time I graduated middle school I had developed a persistent and constant low-level depression.

The depression got worse in high school. But at the time I didn’t realize it was caused by the drug. I kept taking Ritalin.

In high school, it was enough that I was able to concentrate in school and get decent grades. My depression problems shouldn’t have been ignored, however. Now, studies suggest that depression and ADD are closely linked in a portion of all people diagnosed with ADD, just as only a portion of the ADD-afflicted has actual hyperactivity.

But which came first, depression or Ritalin?

Adult rats have been shown to show less interest in cocaine rewards if they have been dosed with Ritalin as juveniles. Some have speculated that the Ritalin changes the chemistry of the brain such that the rats’ pleasure from cocaine stimulation is blocked. What other pleasurable stimulation is blocked by these changes?

If rats could speak, they would say Ritalin causes depression. Squeak squeak.

It’s taken me 10 years to recover from taking Ritalin. I am now 28, and I am occasionally known to be funny, but the depression has never gone away, I have just learned to cope with it better. It’s difficult to cope, however, when I know my problems could have been prevented by not taking Ritalin.

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