Adverse Reactions to Ritalin and Other Medications
Warning: Never discontinue taking stimulants or antidepressants without first consulting your health care professional. The withdrawal symptoms can be more severe than the adverse reactions to these medications; therefore, the process must be closely monitored by a mental health professional.
To medicate or not to medicate. This was the center of family discussions while my kids were in elementary school. Many teachers, doctors, psychologists, friends, and family members were strongly recommending that we put both Erik and Westley on stimulants. My husband said he wouldn’t allow our children to take speed. At this time, I was only aware of a few potential side effects, such as suppressed appetite, insomnia, and symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome. I was opposed to my kids being medicated; they were only in the tenth to twenty-fifth percentile for their height and weight, and Westley was exhibiting some facial tics. I was no expert on ADHD or medication, but I knew that sleep is critical for producing human growth hormone and that children need to eat to grow. It seemed to me that the effects of Ritalin would conflict with what is natural for a healthy, growing body. There is no drug that can cure ADHD. The drugs may suppress some of the symptoms, but not without many potentially serious side effects, and ADHD drugs are prescribed for long-term use.
I know one boy who suffered depression and hallucinations while taking Ritalin. He stopped taking the medication after using it for seven years. When asked how he felt while taking Ritalin, he described it as always feeling depressed. He would be hungry, but he wouldn’t eat much. He would feel tired, but he couldn’t fall asleep. He felt like his energy was stuck inside his body, but he was unable to express it. Once he was off the drug, he felt much better.
Witnessing the side effects this boy experienced made me that much more determined to discover natural, alternative solutions.
Facts about Ritalin and Other Medications Used to Treat ADD/ADHD
The government estimates that 2.5 million American children and 1.5 million American adults take medication for ADHD.
The side effects reported on Ritalin’s label include stomachaches, headaches, and hallucinations, but reports have suggested it also causes more severe reactions, such as liver problems and even death. The FDA’s advisory committee voted eight to seven in favor of putting a black box warning—the FDA’s most severe warning for side effects in drugs—on the box of Ritalin, but the FDA has not yet taken any action on the recommendation. This was after data revealed that ADHD drugs may have caused twenty-five deaths and fifty-four serious medical problems among patients between the years 1999 and 2003. Cited medical problems include: stroke, hypertension, palpitations, arrhythmia, and heart attacks.
Between the years 1990 and 2000, more than 569 children were hospitalized—thirty-eight of them were life-threatening hospitalizations—and 186 died, all from using stimulants. Many of them died from cardiac arrest and strokes.
All stimulants cause constriction of veins and arteries, causing the heart to work overtime, leading to damage to the heart.
Victoria Vetter, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the head of the heart group committee, recommends that children should have an EKG to rule out any undiagnosed heart issues before they are put on drugs. She said that after screening 1,100 children she found that fully 2 percent of them had some kind of heart problem.
Schools receive additional money from the state and federal governments for every child labeled and drugged.
Children twelve years and older who have been prescribed or are currently taking any stimulants or antidepressants are automatically rejected for military service.
Amphetamines like Dexedrine and Adderall are toxic to the brain and can cause brain cell death. In several studies with lab animals, such as rhesus monkeys, small doses of amphetamines were administered over periods of days or weeks. The animals showed a lasting loss of receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine. If this is the effect of an ADHD medication such as dexedrine on monkeys, it could also have the same effect on humans.
Ritalin is highly addictive. It’s a Schedule II category drug, along with morphine, cocaine, opium, and barbiturates. The common street names for Ritalin include rids, pineapple, and kiddie cocaine. No studies have been conducted on Ritalin for children under six years old.
Strattera is the newest drug that Eli Lilly & Company is promoting for ADHD. It’s been dispensed to more than two million patients since it went on the market in 2002. Eli Lilly & Company was required to include a black box warning on the package stating the following:
In some children and teens, Strattera increases the risk of suicidal thoughts. A combined analysis of 12 studies of Strattera showed that in children and teens this risk was 0.4% for those taking Strattera compared to none for those taking a sugar pill. A similar analysis in adults treated with Strattera did not reveal an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. Call your doctor right away if your child has thoughts of suicide or sudden changes in mood or behavior, especially at the beginning of treatment or after a change in dose.
Even though there has not been a direct link established between violent crimes and taking prescription antidepressants and stimulants, the most tragic cases of violent murder by someone on prescription drugs should be noted.
Jeffrey Weiss went on a shooting rampage on March 21, 2005, at Red Lake High School that left ten dead, including him. Earlier that day, Weiss had killed his grandfather and his grandfather’s girlfriend. He was on Prozac and recently the dosage had been increased.
Eric Harris, one of the killers at Columbine High School, was on the antidepressant drug Luvox. Court records show that the prescription for Harris had been filled ten times between April 1998 and March 1999.Three and a half months before the shooting, the dosage had been increased. The Physician’s Desk Reference records show that during controlled clinical trials of Luvox, manic reactions developed in 4 percent of the children given the drug.
Thomas Solomon, a fifteen-year-old at Heritage High School in Conyers, Georgia, shot and wounded six classmates. He was on Ritalin at the time.
Kip Kinkel, a fifteen-year-old at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, killed his parents and two classmates and wounded twenty-two other students while on Ritalin and Prozac.
Shawn Cooper, a fifteen-year-old sophomore at Notus Junior-Senior High School in Notus, Idaho, fired a shotgun at his fellow students. He was on Ritalin.
In 1989, less than one month after taking his first dose of Prozac, Joseph Wesbecker massacred eight coworkers with an AK-47 before turning the weapon on himself.
Michael McDermott, convicted of killing seven co-workers, tripled his dosage of Prozac before the shootings. On the witness stand he said he believed that he killed Nazis and not his co-workers. He said an archangel appeared to him before the massacre, telling him that he could prevent the Holocaust if he traveled back in time to 1940 to kill Adolf Hitler and six German generals.
Brynn Hartman, wife of comedian Phil Hartman, shot and killed her husband and herself while on Zoloft.
Andrea Yates in Houston, Texas, drowned her five children while on Effexor and Remeron.
Christopher Pittman shot and killed his grandparents when he was age twelve. He claimed that a voice inside his head told him to kill his grandparents on November 28, 2001.Christopher had recently started to take Zoloft to treat mild depression.