Well this article is interesting. There are so many people using ritalin every day. Even children. I think this is a big money scam and I do not beleive that all these people really need ritalin. Come on. I answered the questionare at the end of the article and questions are so funny. Like if you answer yes to question if you laugh a lot that you are potential ritalin user? Come on. Read the article……………… When both her children were diagnosed with a behavioral disorder three years ago, Charlotte Fisher began reading up on the condition. Having assumed that “attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder”, or ADHD, was solely a childhood condition, Mrs Fisher discovered a hoard of literature that told her otherwise.
“I came across a book about the symptoms of adult ADHD and realized that I was reading my entire life,” she says. “I had a terrible childhood as a very wilful child and I always knew I was different. I could never socialize with people. I was disruptive at school and always flying into rages, which eventually led me into drug addiction as a way to escape what was a living hell.”
Anti-depressants did not help Mrs Fisher, who believes her condition led to her divorce six years ago, and she became increasingly desperate, unable to hold down jobs or relationships. “My erratic behaviour continued into adulthood but, up until reading that book, I didn’t know what was wrong with me.”
Mrs Fisher, a 33-year-old psychology student from Warminster, Wiltshire, diagnosed herself with ADHD after answering “yes” to a symptom checklist in the book, which included such questions as, “Are you moody?”, “Are you impulsive?” and “Do you procrastinate?”
Her GP referred her to a psychiatrist who confirmed her diagnosis and prescribed Ritalin, an amphetamine-based stimulant that improves concentration and has been nicknamed the “chemical cosh” because of its calming effects.
Mrs Fisher’s children, Jazmine, 12, and James, eight, were also diagnosed with ADHD, after showing symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention and unruly behaviour at school.
The family have taken Ritalin for the past three years and although Mrs Fisher still finds it difficult to work full time and receives financial help from her father, she claims that the drug has improved her children’s behaviour and “lifted a blanket of fog” from her mind.
She is not alone. Mrs Fisher is one of the growing number of adults who take prescription drugs for ADHD, which allegedly affects more than one million adults and 350,000 children in the UK, according to the National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service, or ADDISS.
There were a record number of prescriptions last year for methylphenidate – of which Ritalin is the most common brand – at a cost of £10 million to the NHS. Although 90 per cent of the 359,100 prescriptions were dispensed to children – a 180-fold increase since 1991, when just 2,000 were issued – adults are now a fast-growing area.
As with most health “fads”, it has crossed the Atlantic. Adult ADHD is already big business in America. A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health, which compared the behavioural patterns of 500 adults diagnosed with the condition with 500 adults without, claimed that eight million adults – almost four per cent of the population – may have the disorder.
More than 1.5 million adults in America are now using prescription drugs for ADHD, and a survey there last month found that the use of prescription drugs to treat the condition is growing at double the rate among adults than among children.
All this is excellent news for drug companies such as Shire Pharmaceuticals, a British company that manufactures Adderall, a drug similar to Ritalin and used to treat ADHD. Matthew Emmens, Shire’s chief executive, believes that “the adult market is three times the size of the £1.14 billion-a-year children’s market and is ripe and moving in the right direction”.
Andrea Bilbow, the chief executive of ADDISS, said last week: “Whereas a few years ago we would receive a few calls a week from adults, we now get up to 10 calls a day from people who have experienced behavioural problems, read literature on the subject and believe they may have the condition.”
ADDISS, a charity run by unpaid volunteers but which also receives funding from drug companies who make ADHD drugs, claims that up to five per cent of schoolchildren suffer from ADHD and that
70 per cent of these continue the symptoms into adulthood. Miss Bilbow believes that “the myth that you turn 12 and it disappears” is finally being addressed. “As awareness grows and more adult psychiatrists come to accept the condition, I think we will see diagnoses and treatment through medication explode.”
Philip Asherson, a professor of molecular psychiatry at King’s College, London, runs an adult ADHD clinic at the Maudsley Hospital in Camberwell, south London, one of only two such NHS clinics in the country. It is expanding to cope with the rise in demand.
Since the clinic opened in 1994, Prof Asherson has seen patient numbers soar from a “steady trickle of a few patients a month, to 11 new patients a week”, many of whom wait for more than a year to see him. The majority are prescribed with methylphenidate drugs, but he concedes that self-diagnosis of adult ADHD through literature checklists is “a growing concern”.
“There is always the danger that somebody can pick up a list of questions and say, “I have those symptoms, so I must have ADHD”, which is why consultations are necessary.”
Dr Jonathan Dowson, a consultant psychiatrist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, heads the other NHS adult ADHD clinic. “There is a growing demand for consultations and I am seeing more people through self-referral or who have children with the syndrome and think they may have the same problem,” he said.
There are no medical tests for ADHD and adults are evaluated on a range of factors, including their childhood behavioural history and questionnaires asking if they suffer from restlessness, lack of organisation and poor time management. Or, as critics of the growing ADHD “industry” put it, reasonably normal behaviour.
Professor Peter Hill, an adolescent psychiatrist and ADHD specialist, believes that the explosion in the number of adults seeking medical treatment for these “symptoms” is in danger of changing the view of the condition. “Most of my patients do not continue their symptoms into adulthood, and very few require medication beyond adolescence,” he says.
“ADHD is a developmental condition that gets better as you get older and I think it is terribly important to stress that. The American concept is to see it as something that never goes away, but I do not think that is the case and I have seen no evidence to support that theory.”
Others in the medical profession go even farther, expressing deep scepticism about the very existence of ADHD as a medical condition. Some liken the rise of Ritalin to that of Prozac, the wonder drug of the 1980s and 1990s that was supposed to bring medicated peace to millions of depressed minds. Only later did studies link the drug to suicide and violence, charges that
Eli Lilly, its manufacturer, continues to reject.
Dr Sami Timimi, an adolescent psychiatrist based in Lincolnshire and a campaigner against the use of drugs for behavioural disorders, says the medical treatment of anti-social behaviour is “a scandal”, with adult ADHD fast becoming a “new social health fad”.
“During the 1990s, we saw melancholy and the normal ups and downs of everyday life increasingly diagnosed as clinical depression, and taking Prozac was considered a trendy and easy way of dealing with emotions like unhappiness and anxiety,” he says.
“If Ritalin, which is chemically similar to speed, continues to be prescribed for adults who feel they are a bit disorganised, it will become a lifestyle drug for perfectly healthy adults who want an extra hand with the growing demands of daily life.
“ADHD does not exist in children and certainly doesn’t exist in adults. Mood swings, forgetfulness and disorganisation are common behavioural patterns in every human being and it is ludicrous that they are now being diagnosed as symptoms for a medical condition.”
Dr Timimi believes that an increased awareness and acceptance of adult ADHD provides some doctors with the opportunity to raise their profile and help them secure funding from drugs companies eager to get a foothold in the British market.
“This so-called condition is new territory for psychiatrists who can make a name for themselves through labelling and medicating people’s problems, instead of investigating the real root causes and considering alternative treatment, such as therapy,” he says. “Doctors who prescribe drugs in these situations give scientific legitimacy for pharmacological solutions to life’s normal stresses, and research grants from drug companies are more likely to go to those doctors than to the sceptical clinicians.”
Dr Timimi believes that not enough people are aware of the potential health risks and side-effects associated with Ritalin, which include insomnia, psychosis and loss of appetite.
Although little research has been carried out into the drug’s long-term effects, a recent report in America found that Ritalin may cause lasting changes to the brain. In the study, carried out by the Harvard Medical School, healthy rats given the drug in their infancy were found to have a reduced sense of pleasure and were more prone to signs of despair during adulthood.
It was these lasting changes to the brain that convinced John Slater – not his real name – to come off his medication after being diagnosed with ADHD. Mr Slater, a 46-year-old marketing manager from Exeter, was prescribed with Dexadrine, a stimulant similar to Ritalin, which he took for 18 months.
“The drugs made me more aggressive and I realised that they were permanently altering my sense of who I was,” he says. “Life is still difficult –
I am forgetful and prone to mood swings – but I have learnt to live with my symptoms, which is a far better alternative to medication.”
Janice Hill, the founder of the Overload Network, a charity that campaigns against the prescription of drugs for behavioural disorders, believes that the lure of cash benefits is leading more adults to seek the ADHD diagnosis.
Children or adults who can prove, by providing medical references, that ADHD severely affects either their mobility or care requirements,
can apply for a disability living allowance from the Department for
Work and Pensions, worth up to £60 per week.
“If adults with behavioural problems think that they might be entitled to this allowance, they are going to look for the diagnosis to plead their case,” she says.”Of course, some adults do have difficulties but the alternatives to drugs, such as cognitive behavioural therapy and anger-management courses are very effective. Life is not a disorder that needs medicating.”
Pay attention now…
Although there is no standard test for the disorder, here are some typical questions asked of adults during a diagnosis. The more questions that are answered ‘yes’, the more likely it is that a person has ADHD, according to psychiatrists.
1. Are you moody?
2. Were you considered an under-achiever at school? Now?
3. Do you have trouble getting started on things?
4. Do you drum your fingers a lot, tap your feet, or fidget?
5. When you read, do you find that you often have to re-read a paragraph or an entire page because you are daydreaming?
6. Do you ‘tune out’ or ‘space out’ a lot?
7. Do you have a hard time relaxing?
8. Are you impulsive?
9. Are you easily distracted?
10. Is your memory so porous that if you go from one room to the next to get something, you’ve sometimes forgotten what you’re looking for?
11. Do you change the radio station in your car frequently?
12. Do you change TV stations frequently?
13. More than most people, do you hate queuing?
14. Do you have a hair-trigger temper?
15. Do you frequently resolve to organise your life better, only to find that you’re always on the brink of chaos?
16. Would you consider yourself an addictive personality?
17. Are you more flirtatious that you really mean to be?
18. Do you find it hard to be alone?
19. Have you changed jobs a lot?
20. Are you smarter than you’re able to demonstrate?
21. Are you particularly insecure?
22. Do you have trouble keeping secrets?
23. Do you love to travel?
24. Do you laugh a lot?
25. Did you have trouble paying attention long enough to read this entire questionnaire?