Dispelling Disinformation About Ritalin

By Zvi Zobin. They he/ she / says that:- They know what ADD/ADHD is. They know how Ritalin works. They say that by the end of the day, it has all gone out from the body. They say that Ritalin cures ADD/ADHD. They know nothing works as well as Ritalin. They know Ritalin is safe. They know there are very few side-effects. They know that alternatives are not as effective as Ritalin. They know that the safety of alternatives have not been proven. 

Novartis – the makers of Ritalin – say in their guide to physicians (Prescribing Information – Revision date 2011)

They do not know exactly what ADD/ADHD is and there is no one diagnostic test for them

They say that its mode of action in man is not completely understood and there is no specific evidence which shows how it works and how it produces its effect on the nervous system.

They say it takes 48 – 96 hours to be removed from the body

They say that Ritalin is not always appropriate.

They say Ritalin should only be given when nothing else is effective – and then only by a qualified doctor after extensive testing and only as part of a remedial program

They say that the effectiveness of Ritalin for long term use – i.e. for more than 4 weeks – has not been systematically evaluated.

They say Ritalin can cause sudden death in children and adults and that this risk should be taken into account when considering prescribing Ritalin.

They say that before prescribing Ritalin all people should have a thorough cardiac checkup.

They say all who take Ritalin should have regular checkups for heart rate and blood pressure, CBC, differential and platelet counts.

They say that Ritalin might play a role in emergent aggressive and suicidal tendencies.

They say that Ritalin should not be used for children under the age of 6 as its safety has not been proved for young children.

They say Ritalin can interact badly with some other medications.

They say list as “common” the following side effects when taking Ritalin:-

Nervousness, insomnia and reduced appetite; nausea, vomiting, dry mouth and abdominal pains; palpitations,   changes in blood-pressure and heart-rate (usually an increase), tachycardia, and cardiac arrhymias; rash, pruritus, fever, arthralagia, and scalp hair loss.

They say Ritalin should not taken with alcohol and when engaged in intense physical activity.

In August, 2006, theUnited Statesmedicines watchdog, the Federal Drugs Agency, issued its most severe advisory warning against Ritalin after 25 people were found to have died from cardiac problems.

Seven children are also thought to have died in theUK.

A recent BBC program reported that about 50% of takers experience adverse side-effects. Professor Steve Baldwin, a clinical psychologist from theUniversityofTeeside, described how the drug alters behaviour. It narrows the child’s focus of attention—the classic effect of methylphenidate, not just on children but also on teenagers, adults and animals. He continued, “Apparently the child is improving but what’s really happening is there is less behaviour. The emotion is cut off and the feeling is cut off, and what we’re left with is children that behave like robots and zombies.”

In the programme, concerns were voiced about the effect such drug use may have on the development of young brains. Dr. Joseph Coyle of the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry warned that little work had been done on the outcome of these drugs for pre-schoolers: “This is a time of tremendous change and maturation of the nervous system, and the very chemical messengers that these drugs manipulate in their therapeutic effects are the same chemical messengers that regulate brain development, and so I think we do have to be concerned. There have been studies done in experimental animals that show that manipulation of these chemical messengers that are affected by these drugs can alter normal brain development.”

Dr. Peter Jensen of the New York State Psychiatric Institute believes that drugs like Ritalin are being used as a form of social control. The apparently “positive results” their use seems to bring are due to their crushing of spontaneous behaviour, he argues, and likens this to technological child abuse. A generation is being brought up to conform—if they do not sit down, shut up and do what they are told, they are diagnosed and drugged, he said.

Alternatives are usually made from natural products which have been used safely for many years. Ritalin is a Schedule II medication in the same class as Heroin and cocaine – in other words, its dangerousness has been established.

InNew York, before being supplied with Ritalin, parents have to sign a form permitting the government to follow the progress of the child because it has been found that taking Ritalin is a precursor to the child getting into hard drugs later on.

The Physiology department ofCambridgeUniversityfound that Omega-3 is as effective as Ritalin in helping people with ADD and ADHD.

Lack of sleep, allergies to substances such as MSG, food colorings, lack of exercise, can all cause ADD/ADHD symptoms.

On a personal note, I recently met with a child whose liver had been damaged by Ritalin. After being on Ritalin for 2 years, when he went off it, he was back to where he was 2 years ago. Many mothers have told me that when their children started taking Ritalin, the side effects were so bad they discontinued giving it, and many bochurim have told me how they felt like zombies when they were on it as children.

When parents complain that their children are wild, HRG Harav C.P. Scheinberg shlita tells them that many Gedolim were wild when they were children

A BBC program (BBC – One-Minute World News  Monday, 12 November 2007) quoted a study which concluded that “The benefits of drugs had previously been exaggerated.”

Professor William Pelham of theUniversityofBuffalosaid: “I think that we exaggerated the beneficial impact of medication in the first study.

“We had thought that children medicated longer would have better outcomes. That didn’t happen to be the case.

“There’s no indication that medication’s better than nothing in the long run.”

 Prof Pelham said there were “no beneficial effects” of medication and the impact was seemingly negative instead.

The Experts Recommend Medication and Psychological Counseling as the Treatment of ADHD.

But listen to this…

FACT: No medication has ever cured ADHD.

Physicians treat ADHD with medications. But ask your doctor. He will be the first to tell you the medicines he prescribes will not get rid of ADHD. It just will take care of the symptoms for a while. And when the medicine wears off- well, it’s better not to have anyone around your child at that time.

But it is worse than that. According to an article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, medication does nothing to improve a child’s academic performance or social development. In fact the researcher found “no significant long-terms benefits of taking medication” for ADHD. Many other long-term studies back this up.

FACT: Psychological counseling does not cure ADHD.

What the psychologist usually does is help you and your child live with and accept the condition. Psychology does nothing to treat or even to address the real ADHD symptoms.

So everybody, including the doctors, agree that the current state-of-the-art treatment for ADHD does nothing really to treat the actual disorder.

In conclusion, Ritalin definitely helps the teacher but probably does not help the child and there is a risk it might harm him. There are occasions when Ritalin can help a child or adult, but we must remember that it is a powerful drug which needs to administered very carefully. And a cup of coffee in the morning might be just as effective.

Professor Pelham now ‘treats’ ADHD by counseling parents and teachers on how to help the child modify his behavior.

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  1. I agree with the ritalin part of this article, but that is about it. My son was diagnosed with ADHD in 1st grade by a neurologist who put him on ritalin after we tried adjusting his diet and taking away certain colors in foods and so on, all a bunch of (moderated). The ritalin made my son very angry and hostile; he was throwing chairs at other kids in school. Plus the doctor only wanted him to take the meds on school days, no weekends or holidays and so on. He was a moron, I took my son to a different doctor, a developmental pediatrician through CSH in Toms River, she was great. She put him on two different meds before we found the right one. Just so you all know we as parents of kids with ADHD/ADD know there is no cure for it, no one ever told us there was. The meds do not just help the teachers so dispell that mythical idea from your heads, it helps these children greatly. Without the medication these kids have no impulse controle, no ability to concentrate, hard time oragnizing and remembering tasks at hand. Most children with ADHD/ADD have comorbidities as well; Aspergers is one of them. My son has that as well, he has trouble makign friends, reading social cues, even daily activities living are often put to the side for him; he must be reminded of a lot fo things. And on a side note, behavior modification is a joke, without medication and counseling these poor kids are set up for failure and you as the parent are the reason then if you do not try everything and believe an dtrust your doctor. ADHD/ADD are neurologica disorders, not mental illness, medication works so the child or adult can do what needs to be done in their life. My daughter has ADD as well and since she has been taking her medication and she is 17 she has noticed a significant difference in everything and is so glad she is recieving it and the counceling.

  2. There are many medications like Ritalin that are prescribed in America like one blinks his eye. Doctors poison people by prescribing drugs for anxiety, add, adhd, ocd, etc. Many medications for mental issues numb a person’s emotions along with many other detrimental side affects. Some people in actuality do need medication (along with heavy couseling to help them.) However, medication is not always the answer-not as often as it is prescribed especially thru out Lakewood, NJ. Thank you TLS for printing this letter, and I hope it brings awareness to doctors/parents who believe medication is the only answer.

  3. This article quotes research from 2006 and 2007. A more recent study published in New England Journal of Medicine ( November 2001) finds ADHD medications do not increase the risk of serious cardiovascular events.

  4. I took meds in high school, and took myself off of them shortly after (6 months or so). No regrets whatsoever, My ADHD has been the vehicle for my success once I understood myself better.

    Great book: Driven to distraction

    To Rachel: (and all others) I think you are mistaken. There are plenty of ways to remove symptoms of any cahracter trait which is not admirable. Impulsiveness seems nasty – it isnt. Tempers are horrible -no they are not.
    It’s all about how you deal with them. Go for therapy, or not, but seek wisdom and you will see I am right. Speak to TRUE leaders and you will slowly uncover how as a whole us (parents) and the school system are trained or perhaps prepared to “parent and teach NORMAL children” and in order for us to train or teach children we have to normalize them. That is definitley more appealing when a parent or teacher is handed an “ADHD” child, but its the lazy, incorrect and inevitably the (un)easy way out.

    Start with taking your child(ren) aside tonight and express in a simple non dramatic way your overwhelming love and appreciation for who they are as they are! Try it – it feels great..without strings attached!

    Then learn yourself how to understand your child as they are, and accept that your lot will be more demanding than the parent or teacher of the “normal” child.

    I’ve found when ADHD children are enabled and properly nurtured they thrive way more than you’ve imagined.

    May the one and only enable you in your quest!

  5. the lack of the letters MD after mr zobins mane is glaring, ritalin has helped countless people lead norman lives. scaring people out of using it is only self aggrandizing with out qualification and needless scaremongering. everyone who has ever needed it has been informed of the porential side effects and risks, like any medicine, but unfortunatelly risks are often nescessary to give a child a chance at succes.
    my child would not stand a chance in school if not for ritalin and i thank Hashem for it every day as i watch my child grow and blossom.

    bottom line. if your not a doctor dont tell people what medecines to use or not to.

  6. This article is ridiculous. Please leave ADHD to people who actually spend many years studying the condition and conducting research with thousands of patients, not just a small segment of the frum population.

  7. The author is correct that Ritalin may have a lot of side effects.The fact is simple, putting a child through Cheder, Yeshiva etc. with ADHD symptoms & not treating it with medication is a recipe for low self esteem & depression. When a child under achieves & develops behavioral issues or suppressed feelings, that is a predictor in growing up a leading a normal frum life. To sum it up, the side effects of not treating ADHD with medication (in addition to therapy) are more substantial than the side effects of the actual medication.

  8. sometimes kids grow out of it (ADHD) naturally when they hit their teens and start ‘maturing’.

    Ritalins inhibits the maturation of girls on it.

    If it a ‘mild’ case then see if you can get away with the ‘relax to max’ etc.

  9. Each child reacts differently to Ritalyn. As a parent and as a Rebbi, I have seen the tremendous benefits of medicating an ADHD child responsibly. With proper supervision, Ritalyn can literally save a child’s life. I have seen children with zero self esteem have their lives turned around without all of the horrible side effects that you have described. It’s surely true that some do have side effects, and it doesn’t work perfectly for everyone. But I believe that anyone who holds this medication back from a child who really needs it is potentially crippling a child for life.

  10. There are many helpful books available at our local library on the topic of Adults/Teens/Children with ADD/ADHD.
    Check out the reviews on Amazon; some have 100+ positive reviews and are well worth reading.
    Unfortunately too many people aren’t aware of their ADD/HD tendencies. Recognizing and acknowledging ADD/HD symptoms is very relieving for all involved.

  11. My personal opinion is mostly to agree with the premiise of this article, that Ritalin is greatly overprescribed. I also believe that ADD/ADHD is vastly overdiagnosed, as a way of getting more work for therapists, more govt. money etc., and also as a cop-out from the effort of proper discipline and chinuch.

    However, as I stated, this is my own personal uneducated opinion.

    What are the credentials of the author of this article?

  12. i am no fan of medicating children, my daughter suffered thru her early developmental years

    we finally found a good psychologist working out of Columbia Presbyterian, who monitors her doses
    my daughter is a changed person more focused in her classroom setting

    we know its not the fix to her ADHD , but depriving someone from giving it to their child, is in general the parents ego at play
    they don’t want to be labeled that there child is on Meds…..

  13. you forgot to mention it is suspect of supressing and effecting one’s thyroid gland. I was on it, and now have thyroid issues. Yes i was diagnosed by a M.D. not a lakewood hocker like those that question harav Zobin.

  14. The problem obviously is that all these side effects are listed . I think you would do better if you take something homeopathic that has no side effects listed. Especially if it has a picture of an honest-looking guy on it!

  15. Hurray, for this honest article. The Rebbe who saw kids self-esteem rise because of a med should be out of the classroom. A kid’s self-esteem could have risen by a Rebbe who boosted the child by telling him straight Alef is not G-d’s way. Effort is. There was a major news article about the med problem in our society in general. We throw meds at everything, because the drug companies want it that way. And it is usually an easier route out than the real solutions, such as talk therapy, character building, restructuring our school system, etc.

  16. No. I am not a doctor but I was only quoting from Novartis’s own handbook. I know that there are sometimes children who can benefit from Ritalin.
    The purpose of the article is to dispel the widespread myth that you can give them out like candies and they are as safe as candies.
    Ritalin and all the equivalents are powerful Schedule II drugs in the same category as Heroin and Cocaine and should be handled as such.
    I once gave a workshop in Lakewood and I mentioned the reservations about using Ritalin and one of the rebbeim said that he gets a child in the afternoon when the ritalin has worn off and he gives him a cup of coffee and the boy is back on track – caffeine and ritalin are both stimulants.

  17. Mr. Zobin,

    What you read is written on the website so that they will not be held accountable for anyone that has a negative experience. Not that this is the normal expected results!

    For anyone that does not understand the science of these drugs to say it’s a stimulant and that coffee does the same, makes this a very immature conversation.

    To say the least I am very disappointed in the writer of this article for marginalizing this great “syndrome”.

    He may have turned off the individual who would have greatly benefited from medication.

    ADHD affects people in many ways including marriage problems, raising children, Kids at Risk, Parnasah, Etc.

    Truly disturbed by this!!!

  18. My son’s rebbe called last year that my 9 year old was acting up. I never had a problem with my son before. His rebbe suggested he see a doctor who quickly provided ritalin.
    At first I gave it to him at home but I kept forgetting. So the rebbe offered to give him his pill daily at school. I was nervous about the stigma but the rebbe had an eitzah so no one would know.
    The rebbe would keep the pills in the “rebbe’s break room” and each morning he would send my son to make him a coffee. Once he was in this room, he would take the pill with noone watching.
    It worked like a charm! The rebbe kept calling me to tell me what an angel my son became.
    About 6 months later I asked my son how it’s going and he said great! He said every morning he goes out and makes his rebbe a coffee, puts the pill in the coffee and gets along great with his rebbe now!

  19. Obviously, a lot of the people here think they know more about ritalin and ADHD than the authorities Rabbi Zobin is quoting from. You should all read the article very carefully because you will see that nearly all the information is either from the makers of ritalin or from highly esteemed professors.
    With all 2, 8, 10, 11, 12 and 21’s chashoshos, you will also see that Professor Pelham himself now uses counseling to deal with these problems.
    Indecently, 4.update should realize that 2006/7 is considerably AFTER 2001.

  20. This is perhaps the worst posting I have ever seen on TLS. First of all – Ritalin is not prescribed as much anymore, there are newer meds with great results. And for a child with ADHD medication is a lifesaver – I am a psychologist in a school and I see it time and time again. Why would one even write an article like this?

  21. I’m sure “Seriousy?” is highly qualified and has years of experience, but Professor Pelham is better qualified and has more experience and he has rejected medication and has replaced it with counseling. Medication is easier and quicker, but, as Professor Lord Greenfield said in the UK House of Lords when they were discussing medication for treating ADD and ADHD, any medication which changes a person’s behavior is also changing the brain.
    Unfortunately, psychologists have done serious damage to chinuch, uprooting the whole concept of ‘yirah’ and discipline and punishment and are replacing it with masses of “honey coated love” and “positive reinforcement” which leaves the child unable to deal with discipline and criticism, which are essential for effective chinuch.
    Professor Pelham has come round to the old style of chinuch which includes teaching the child self-control.

  22. After re-reading my article as it appeared in The Lakewood Scoop I realize that it is not immediately obvious that actually nearly everything is quoted from Novartis’s own publication and from the article from the BBC. It is not my purpose to ban Ritalin and the like totally – I know it can help some children. The purpose is only to dispel the misinformation and to help people realize that they are dealing with a very powerful drug and that sometimes there are alternatives. Every drug comes with its little slip of paper with ‘counter-indications’ – but they are not taken every day for extended periods of time. I was told of a teacher who carries Ritalin pills in her bag and if the class gets too wild, she gives it out to the kids to calm them down. I also know that in many cases, the parents are not told that the person needs a heart and blood check-up before taking the medication and regular heart, blood and liver tests.

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