Written by: Michelle Hashem
Mental health research has skyrocketed in the past fifty years. We have gained so much more of an understanding of illnesses like depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Although this has allowed us to better recognize different disorders, it has also opened up a wider market for the development of drugs--and the abuse of them.
Adderall and Ritalin are two major medications used to treat ADHD. Adderall basically strengthens the effect of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which helps with memory and attention, and norepinephrine, which lowers hyperactivity. Ritalin can increase attention span and decrease hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
According to the CDC, 62% of children with ADHD are medicated. They are advertising literal amphetamines to children. Think about how these kids are potentially forming a dependence early on to these medications that are widely known to be addictive. Not to mention the other affects it can have on their health in the long run. According to the American Addiction Center, the long term effects of taking amphetamines like adderall can be irritability, depression, and even heart disease. When I learned that doctors are recommending such serious medications to such a large number of kids suffering from the disorder, it hit me that drug companies don’t only care about helping people with mental health issues.
According to a study I found that was well explained by Health Affairs, global spending on drugs like adderall and ritalin increased by about 17.6% a year from 1993-2000, and after that, it jumped to a 40.9% increase in spending a year and has been growing since. That is crazy! Drug companies must be making big money off of that.
On top of the fact that people all over the world have been going crazy over these medications, this article concluded that “This study has confirmed that the United States is by far the world’s largest consumer of ADHD medications. Why other countries have lagged behind is not well understood.”
To put it in perspective how dependent the US is on these drugs, the number of prescriptions for stimulants for disorders similar to and including ADHD in the US was 5 million in 1991. In 2007, it was 35 million and is still climbing today. Something that is also important to take into account with any drug is the amount of people abusing them. This is especially the case with ADHD medications. Since 1995, ritalin, or methylphenidate, has been ranked the top most stolen drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
And abuse is on the rise--according to Johns Hopkins University, from 2006-2011, abuse of adderall had gone up 67%, and emergency visits up 156%. It is obvious we have a drug crisis in this country, but ADHD medications like adderall and ritalin are often overlooked. Professor Ramin Mojtabai “suggests that drugs like Adderall should be treated with the same scrutiny as prescription painkillers.”
It might be a good thing that more people’s ADHD are being diagnosed and treated, but to every accomplishment, there is a dark side. It depends on whether you are willing to ignore it or not.