Prescribe Ritalin to Everyone, Provocative Essay Suggests

By Eliza Strickland | December 8, 2008 8:36 am

RitalinIf you could take a pill to boost your concentration and mental stamina, would you do it? Around the country, thousands of college students are already answering “yes” to that question and are using prescription medications like Ritalin as study aids, and researchers say the demand for such “smart pills” is likely to grow. Now, in a new essay, a group of neuroscientists and bioethicists is arguing that society shouldn’t frown on such practices; instead the authors assert that “we should welcome new methods of improving our brain function,” and that doing it with pills is no more morally objectionable than eating right or getting a good night’s sleep [Chronicle of Higher Education].

Stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall are prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and are commonly used by people without a prescription to help them focus their attention, while a narcolepsy drug called Provigil is sometimes used by people trying to keep their brains alert and awake. The new essay cited a recent survey that found nearly 7 percent of students in U.S. universities have used prescription stimulants, and on some campuses, as many as a quarter of students have used the drugs for non-therapeutic purposes. “It’s a felony, but it’s being done,” [coauthor Martha] Farah said [Reuters].

In the essay, published in Nature [subscription required], the authors argue that such usage is likely to become more routine over time. As more effective brain-boosting pills are developed, demand for them is likely to grow among middle-aged people who want youthful memory powers and multitasking workers who need to keep track of multiple demands, said one commentary author, brain scientist Martha Farah…. “Almost everybody is going to want to use it,” Farah said. “I would be the first in line if safe and effective drugs were developed that trumped caffeine,” [said] another author, Michael Gazzaniga [AP].

The authors say that scientists should begin to study the long-term effects of these drugs on healthy people, and investigate whether there’s a risk of addiction. And while the essay is generally supportive of what it calls mental “enhancements,” the authors do suggest two possible downsides to making pharmaceuticals like Ritalin widely available: children could feel coerced into taking the drugs either directly or through peer pressure, the authors say, and the expense of such drugs might limit their use to people with higher incomes, which could heighten social inequalities. Despite such attempts to balance benefits and risks, the commentary didn’t impress Leigh Turner of the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics. “It’s a nice puff piece for selling medications for people who don’t have an illness of any kind,” Turner said [AP].

Related Content:
80beats: Herbal Remedy Doesn’t Help Kids With Attention Deficit Disorder

Image: flickr / thp365

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Mind & Brain
  • Steve

    This is shameful. The drug companies have outdone themselves.

    Now children, students, and professionals will be virtually forced into taking these drugs in order to compete in the classroom, on campus, and in the workplace. Everyone will be compelled to take these drugs or risk failure in a competitive environment.

    Oh yes, the drugs will be deemed “safe”. The drug companies will see to that.

    How truly sad for humanity.

  • Baz

    This is a dangerous medicine. I used my kid’s Ritalin. I was 50 years old and healthy. My pulse and blood pressure went up, and I had heart palpitations. Worst of all, it created changes in my personality: I became reckless and aggressive. I found it difficult to stop taking the medication until finally I realized how fully demented I was becoming. I stopped taking it, and took my child off of it as well. Don’t fool around with this stuff.

  • heya

    We don’t allow steroids even though in some ways they enhance physical performance. Why ritalin?

  • Anonymous

    Ritalin is death in small doses.

  • Bernhard J Hamaker

    This is ridiculous. Ritalin won’t improve our level of happiness or civility–quite the opposite. I hope this article causes a stir. Nothing has stopped the pharma juggernaut yet, but I hope something will finally get them to stop their heinous monopoly on healing.

  • Dr J

    Why not…at the rate we’re going, it will become mandatory for all US citizens to be on:
    Statins, Flu Vaccines, Anti-Depressants, and drugs like Ritalin. Then comes the next generation of mind controlling drugs. I’m a retired M.D., who walked away from a thriving family practice because of the pharmaceutical insanity. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, because all I saw was a legalized drug pusher. To all my fellow doctors…treat the cause, not the symptom.

  • Winner takes all

    Those who wine will be left behind

  • Norm

    “It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.” – Frank Herbert’s Dune (Movie version)

    Are we really so far from this? None of these drugs are harmless, and very little is known about long-term use, less is known about potential interactions with other drugs (prescribed and otherwise). This is nothing more than pharmaceutical companies again trying to boost income at the expense of the consumer, using advertising as an end-run around competent medical advice.

  • Beaker

    This suggestion is irresponsible and shows an appalling lack of knowledge of the history of stimulant abuse. Here we go again. Japan in the 1950s. USA diet pills in the 1960s. And now adult ADHD drugs in the 21st century. Experience has shown us that, when it comes to cognition, you cannot get something for nothing. Stimulants temporarily allow cognitive enhancement at the expense of the later crash and also chronic breakdown of normal homeostasis. Drs Greely and Sahaklan may think they are being “provocative.” but people will be hurt in the long run by their very bad ideas.

  • Martha W.

    You write: “a group of neuroscientists and bioethicists is arguing that society shouldn’t frown on such practices;”.

    Bioethicists? Sounds like they are just self appointed “deciders” about what is right and what is wrong – their judgment is so out of whack with what any responsible person would recognize: That pushing the body with drugs, unless one is physically sick and needs a drug to prevent the worsening of an illness, is neither healthy nor desirable.

    These so-called bioethicists are so out of touch with reality that they deny the harmful effect that drugs like Ritalin and so many other mood and mind altering drugs can and do have on the body. Don’t they even care that the use of any of these drugs involves serious risk factors due the many side effects on the body and brain? And they call themselves “bioethicists”? What a travesty.

    As poster Steve says, these drug companies have really outdone themselves. Their marketing techniques have probably exceeded their wildest imaginations in how they have twisted the minds of even the “professionals”. Well done.

    What idiocy.

  • Brian

    Wow. Nearly speechless but I’ll try… America doesn’t have enough problems, let’s take all the money we don’t have and spend it on the pharmaceutical equivalent of cocaine!!! I guess this is the form the Pharma bailout takes – hooking everyone on an addictive stimulant in the name of competition.

    Won’t be much of a competition for long when all the CIA shipped coke makes it into the hands of millions of eager Americans who find Ritalin no longer gives them the edge it once did in nursery school.

    What happened to America??? Did the government finally tune the bozo rays just right and turn them all into stammering goblins?

  • MC Deala

    Ritalin is a gateway drug for cocaine and other methanphetamines. It also happens to be addictive, as many college students are finding out. Selling additive drugs seems to be a popular trend, both legal and otherwise.

  • jhn

    If the drugs truly are safe, what exactly is wrong with everyone taking them?

  • Brian

    Woops almost forgot – here is another prime example of corporations getting news published to influence the masses – their obviously self-serving studies – and headlines meant to invoke a sense of inadequacy and urgency – condoning behavior that is neither beneficial to us as individuals or us as a free nation. I suggest everyone try to check out Alex Jones’ infowars website.

    I used to think he was crazy, but the headlines on his website are actually making more sense now than “Let’s all take Ritalin!!!” My God.

  • jhn


    There is no scientific basis to your claim that “all” stimulants must give you a temporary rise in functioning followed by a “crash.” That’s folk science.

    Posters, stop dressing up your morality as science, and put down your coffee.

  • Jeff

    I agree 100% with Steve and others. It is irrelevant whether it is safe and non-addictive. Just like with steroids for athletes, if these brain-boosting drugs are made legal, then all students and professionals will be required to use them to remain competitive. Allowing them will be the same as requiring them. At least if you legalize safe, recreational drugs such as marijuana, I will still have the choice not to take them.

  • JT

    jhn, first off, they can and do always lie about drug safety, or campaign promises, or WMD’s – that’s what corporations and governments do – that’s how they got in power in the first place – through their cunning and our ignorance.

    I bet you are still waiting for those WMD’s to show up? Drug companies and the doctors and journals they co-op will say anything to make a profit – its been proven time and time again. Also its a matter of physics and biology, you can’t just increase your energy and not somehow pay for it another way.

    Coffee, cigs, booze, it all affects you, Ritalin is much stronger, and even comparable to cocaine in many ways. Go look it up for yourself people. Don’t be like jhn there and just take everything for face value. This is reality and in reality its the survival of the fittest, no one is looking out for you except yourself.

  • End the WoD

    I think that if people find these drugs helpful they should be free to use them. That said, we’ve been around this block before with amphetamines in the sixties, which led to the mantra, “Speed kills.” Dopamine agonists like Ritalin are habituating when used chronically. The body adjusts to the drug. The same is true of benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium for anxiety. The real problem is that we have created an economy and a society that is mercilessly exploitive and is not good for human beings in the name of “productivity” and profit. There is nothing wrong with most otherwise healthy people taking Ritalin or an amphetamine to stay alert for some short term task, just like drinking coffee, but regular use of these medications leads to serious side effects and ceases to have the desired effect without constantly increasing doses. Indeed, chronic use of amphetamines or cocaine (another dopamine agonist) can cause a syndrome which clinically resembles paranoid schizophrenia. Read Nikki Sixx’s book, “The Heroin Diaries.” Or Maureen McCormick AKA Marcia Brady. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life hiding in the bedroom closet with a gun?

  • Daniel.

    Caffeine, cocaine anyone?

  • Gene Poole

    Ritalin? No.

    But if we approve (collectively) freedom, Big Pharma will indeed be motivated to produce ‘brain drugs’ which are safe in short and long run.

    In the current social atmosphere, seeking of enhancement is confession of weakness. But so what? Everyone is weak in some way; yet, we are told to suck it up and slog on.

    Nonetheless, slaves of the system need whatever support possible. Best to make it a sustainable sort, yes? Free Pharma to help us, safely and non-addictively. Why not?

  • Terryeo

    RESULTS. If I tell you that swinging a dead cat around in the light of the full moon makes you smarter, will you believe me? Why then would you believe pill pushers whose sole intent is selling more pills? RESULTS. Let those who wish to profit demonstrate RESULTS.

  • http://discover d westwolf

    Mother Nature is thinking “How cute, ll only human”

  • So I

    Sure, just give me my first fix for free … that’s how you expand your customer base.

    I believe everything the government says, they would never allow drug companies to give us something unless it was good for us. Just like all those people that poo-poo fluoride, chlorine, endocrine disrupting plastics, GMO in the food they don’t even label as such unless there is 5% or more, so on and so on – it’s all good for you so just shut up and eat it.

    So what if cancer rates are increasing, autism is off the charts, and fertility rates are dropping. Too many people on earth anyway. I would gladly give up my seat so the social elite (not you or you or even you) and their offspring can enjoy a much less crowed earth. Who’s with me?

  • me2098

    my son was on ridilin for 5 years,he would walk right by a strawberry shortcake,no appitite,underweight,stomach ache,headache,ext,ext,ridilin has caused some scary times in our family like the time,just after my son had been off ridilin for awhile,he and i get into argument he takes butcher knife and threatens to kill himself with ,not good,not even in his nature and there’s much more but it would take to long,as for giving ridilin to everyone that shouldn’t be to hard for the drug companies,as even the kids that are basically forced to use ridilin,don’t get a real diagnose,anyway ,you go to the doc cause the teacher ,or school requests it,the doc looks at you basiclly and says oh yes you have it,no blood tests nothing. very bad stuff,thank god my son has turned into a very fine young man,i hate to think about what he would be like if he was still takin ridilin.all these pharma mind drugs are very dangerous period!!!

  • Derrick

    I’ll be the first to admit that I cannot put down my coffee. And I will also admit that we have to be careful of baseless generalizations. However, what scientific basis do we have that Ritalin is safe anyone — especially for those without ADHD?

    A doctor prescribed to me an anti-biotic for a sinus infection once. After two days, I became depressed. On the third say, I almost took a knife out of my kitchen drawer and stabbed myself in the chest! Until then, I had never been deeply depressed a day in my life — let alone suicidal! A small beacon of reason gave me strength to put down the knife and research the medicine I was taking. Funny, I didn’t find any “proof” that my anti-biotic was the cause. But, I knew something was wrong. I wasn’t behaving as myself.

    I skipped the next dose and found myself manic for a few days. I had rebounded from skipping my dose. I went to my doctor and described everything. Her response: “yeah, that anti-biotic will do that some times. You don’t need to finish taking it”.

    Keep in mind, even scientists have pushed their flawed reasoning dressed in science for whatever reason. Everyone is susceptible to the flaw of mistaking illogic for reason. The sword of reason cuts both ways.

  • Damian

    “I agree 100% with Steve and others. It is irrelevant whether it is safe and non-addictive. Just like with steroids for athletes, if these brain-boosting drugs are made legal, then all students and professionals will be required to use them to remain competitive. Allowing them will be the same as requiring them. At least if you legalize safe, recreational drugs such as marijuana, I will still have the choice not to take them.”

    I don’t see any basis for your assertion at all. Alcohol is legal, and alcohol helps you pick up a member of the opposite sex, but it’s hardly necessary to do so. Legalizing alcohol has not made it “required”. Legalizing diet pills has not made them “required” to lose weight. Legalizing aspirin has not made it “required” to deal with pain. Computers aren’t “required” to write a great essay, though they make it vastly easier. And on and on. You could have made the exact same argument to justify banning ANYTHING that humans have invented to make their lives easier: “It’s going to make life unfair for those who choose not to embrace this new technology.”

    Hardly. Anyone who doesn’t want to drug themselves can use the old time-tested methods of maintaining concentration. Meditation. Exercise. Mozart. Whatever. Does coffee give some workers a competitive edge? Should it therefore be banned? Is it “required” to be successful?

    Look, I can distill all of these arguments down to one: Does anyone on this message board reserve the moral right to tell someone else what they can put in their bodies, if they hurt no one but themselves in doing so?

    If you answer “yes”, then why can’t WE tell YOU what to put in your body, via moral equivalence? Would you be willing to give up caffeine, alcohol, birth control pills, aspirin, cigarettes, trans fats, Whoppers, and afternoons in the cancer-causing sun, simply because some external agency–the government, Christian Scientists, a doctor–declared that they had the right to dictate the operation of your body? If not, why do YOU have the right to tell other people how to live, and not those groups? What makes you the universal font of personal choice?

    If you answer “no”, then lay off already. Nobody should be required to take Ritalin or anything else, but if an adult thinks it helps, let him or her decide whether it’s worth the risk. If he jumps in a car and crashes it on Ritalin, charge him with reckless endangerment, just like you would if he crashed it on legal alcohol, a legal cell phone, or legal sleep deprivation. You can’t legislate the world into perfect safety; you can only ensure justice for those who behave irresponsibly.

    Any attempt to mix a “yes” and “no” strays quickly into base hypocrisy: “Ok, all the things people like to take should be legal except for Ritalin because…” It’s a losing argument. If you don’t want the drug companies to get your money, DON’T BUY THEIR DRUGS. It’s actually your choice.

  • Damian

    PS: Eliza, I must say that your choice of headline here is poor. The essay says “a proper societal response will involve making enhancements available while managing their risks”, while your headline implies that the essay recommends compulsory use of the drugs. It’s a vast difference, and a source of at least some of the outrage in these comments. “Make Ritalin available to everyone” would have been more consistent with the authors’ intent.

  • me2098

    i personally think its all about making more money, without having the costs of inventing safe new drugs, if science says that speed and coke are good for you then i guess they must be right,cause they said so,who they heck are they anyway!!!lots of hits on the net about ridilin and other mind drugs and suicide

  • Beaker


    I’m all for discussing each drug class on its own merits–and I accept your point that “all” stimulants may not lead to a crash. I was thinking specifically about amphetamines and methylphenidate–because the discussion was about drugs used for ADHD. If you read the essay in Nature, you see a big picture of Adderall right there on the first page, and and most of the essay discusses amphamines. Giving healthy people amphetamines for cognition enhancement (or weight loss) is a bad idea, full stop. Perhaps the same is not true for modafinil or galantamine or caffeine.

    The rest of the rambling essay outlines some general principles and ideals about cognition enhancement. There is much psychobabble and almost no discussion of pharmacology. For that reason, it’s irresponsibly written.

  • badluckartist

    Wow I only had to skim through the posts for a few seconds to see everything from people comparing Ritalin to cocaine and athletic steroids to claiming that it’s “all about the money”.

    First, the easier one- everything in America is about money. EVERYTHING. If you come from a background of not having much, you should know this first hand. If you don’t, then you can shut the hell up, at least about that.

    Second, to all the people comparing amphetamines and amphetamine-like drugs to anabolic steroids and cocaine, get your shit straight and do some research before you go mouthing off about what’s right and wrong. Getting drawn into social stigma about how ‘drugs are evil’ is ignorant and close-minded. Everything about our culture is artificial and laced with all kinds of fun chemicals for which we aren’t entirely sure of the side-effects. The point I’m making isn’t to troll, but to be pissed off at people not knowing their facts, and having an opinion on something they know little about.

    I’ve done a lot of drugs in my time. I am a freshman college student. I know plenty of people who do, and who don’t use drugs ‘illicitly’. It’s a matter of personal preference and knowing how to use them correctly. Letting your body dive into a state of dependency- unintelligent. The 50 year old guy that started taking his kid’s Ritalin and suddenly discovered that it could cause heart palpatations… for a lack of kinder words, shouldn’t be reproducing.

    It isn’t the drug that causes mental disorders, it’s the user that doesn’t know how to use them correctly. The higher the risk, the higher the level of understanding and restraint THE USER has to have. Some drugs simply aren’t worth the risk (heroin), and some are more than worth the risk (amphetamines and similar drugs).

  • badluckartist

    I haven’t read the essay and am in no way sticking up for it, as an aside here. My post is mostly a hotheaded (though rightfully so) response to the x number of posts I read through.

  • badluckartist

    Also, Damian’s response kind of owns mine both in terms of accuracy and vicious punctuality. Kudos.

  • Amos Kenigsberg (Discover Web Editor)

    I like the unintentional profundity of Winner Takes All’s comment: “Those who wine will be left behind.”

  • Larian LeQuella

    Darn it Amos, I’m getting left behind then. You can have my Cabernet when you pry it from my dead, cold fingers! 😛

  • Amos Kenigsberg (Discover Web Editor)

    But with all that resveratrol coursing through your veins, who knows when that’ll be…

  • Mike MacArthur

    Start at the start: there is very little real evidence supporting the use of Ritalin at all, for anybody. The difference between it and the placebo sugar pill is so small, why not just require us all to take the sugar pill to…to be…smarter? In Lucas’ THX1138 the workers are all drug tested…to make sure they are taking their “concentration-enhancing” pills.
    Maybe we could come up with a Ritalin-Viagra “cocktail” for people who need neither. They would be forced to concentrate on their partner’s pleasure while having the fortitude to deliver same.

  • Damian

    PPS: Quite a comment turn out! Controversy sells.

  • dano

    Altering brain chemicals will have devastating effects. The consequences will be passed on genitally to future generations having irreversible effects. The human brain is way to complicated for us to be tampering with it via synthetics. Think about it why do some need psychological drugs and some not, were all the same.

  • TW

    Boy! the DUMBING DOWN of America has even reached new heights.

  • http://none nick

    how much did the drug companies pay these guys to write this?

  • Matt

    I think the governments of the world should prescribe us drugs not only to make us alert but allow us the great ability of not having to sleep so we can work not only more productively but longer for our beloved employers. Then we could ask those nice big pharma companies to make drugs that keep us happy all the time too like soma. Eventually we might even develop drugs that make us prettier, smarter and stronger. Im all for it…..

  • badnicolez

    It’s only a (short) matter of time before the poor/minorities who can’t afford these drugs sue government/big pharma claiming a violation of their civil rights due to evil rich people taking drugs that make them more alert and productive, thus creating an unfair competetive environment.

    Then we’re subsidizing legal AND illegal drugs for the poor.

    That’s it, I’ll buy stock in big pharma now while it’s cheap so I can afford the taxes to pay for all these new entitlements!

  • Suzy

    Dont you see it, if the drug is made available to the public,It is not much different than alcohal sale and consumption. The mental effect is much more productive and the bad side effects are no worse. Yes two wrongs do not make a right – but I bet you will bennifit from other people using the drug for the right resons. The only use of alchohal that might be good is what red wine in small doses does for your digestive track. Ritalin could assist the birth of new ideas – inventions – creations – progress – I expect I am going to read the oposition to this message. IF OUR ADULTS WERE the informed public instead of the ignorant public we would have evolved past – they kind of person who is laughing over my bad spelling, instead of thinking for a miniute. Thank you for your time !

  • Chris

    I feel that we should attempt to enhance ourselves as much as possible. Let it be an individual decision or whatever.

    Hitting a wall of ones own limitations is not fun, I would use and support performance enhancers. However use and abuse of these powerful medications does come with some risk.

    It also comes down to a matter or inevitability. If performance enhancing drugs and therapies exist, somebody is going to use them. If somebody is using them, everyone else is at a disadvantage.

    It is funny, that we as a society have grown beyond basic genetic evolution, as our current society could be remarked as, “Survival of the prettiest.”

  • Chris

    dano Says:
    December 9th, 2008 at 12:04 am
    “Altering brain chemicals will have devastating effects. The consequences will be passed on genitally to future generations having irreversible effects. The human brain is way to complicated for us to be tampering with it via synthetics. Think about it why do some need psychological drugs and some not, were all the same.”

    Dano, using prescription medication in general does not create a genetic change in an individual.

    As I know there are 2 ways for a medication to effect genitics. The first is for the medicine to be a virus, created to cause a specific change in the genetic coding of a cell. The other is to damage the DNA within the cell, because of the bodies own defense mechanisms, cells with damaged DNA a usually destroyed.

  • Jody Blond

    I have taken Ritalin for almost 15 years. It has improved my functioning and has not harmed my health. I don’t abuse it, I take it as prescribed. I am still creative, but can organize, plan, and maintain focus. Our own military has done research into the effects of stimulants to enhance performance. And have you not read that the cup of coffee in mid-afternoon makes you smarter? Perhaps the person that wrote of the crazed response to his child’s Ritalin simply didn’t need the drug or took the incorrect dose. Ritalin is not indicated for use by many people, i.e. those with psychiatric or heart problems…dad, don’t take your son’s drugs! Also, it isn’t recommended to just give a drug with out also counseling in the areas of social skills, and educational and psychological issues. It’s a mild stimulant. Not everyone can or should take it. I think the gist of the article was that we should research the idea of improving our brains further. Science fiction has covered the idea of us all being ‘perfect’. Choice and education for all! Also, I am an educator and have never advocated for drugs for children under ten. When I have asked parents to talk with their doctors and have their child evaluated, I have also suggested that they try the drug for a few weeks and ask the child if it is working; they know. Imagine if Albert Einstein’s parents had put him on stimulants so that he would succeed in school rather than home schooling him? He may have worked his entire life filing patents. What a lost that would have been. !

  • http://n/a john

    anyone ever look at the original uses for ritalin? better still where are the documents that the axis and allied armies medical corp agencies assembled before during and after the second world war, the korean conflict and just about every military engagement which has occured for the past fifty years?
    the issue of genetics being influenced by short or long term use has another name usually it is, smokescreen.
    ever wondered the reason people of the high arctic or persons living within 200 miles south of northern russia’s coastal regions rarely if ever experience or report experiencing a.d.h.d. or maladies the compound is used to “treat”? should you be able to obtin a copy of the tome readers may find its internationally documented provides the answer might be in dr. cosmas ho’s texts. unfortunately it looks like the book will NEVER be available via regular purchase processes to Americans having the condition or to American readers having a intrest in learning disability. the closest to it is contained in dr.daniel amens healing the seven types of a.d.d.. i guess that by this time next year the subject of his essays will itself no longer be available to the world, as a nauturally occuring substance or since it cannot be patented a synthesized one.

  • Gehmaxx

    It sucks people are using this for recreation yes, but keep in mind the people that it helps. People lack in dopamine or whatever, the people who are anxious and scared to go out in public and can’t focus on anything. Fact is, it does help people. Hate on the people , not the drug.

  • Gehmaxx

    And for you who say it slowly kills you. Personally I would rather slowly kill myself on this drug and live a life with confidence and people in it. Than to not have this drug and live a life of solitary , fear, suicidal thoughts.

  • bob dobbs

    Wow, a ton of the commentators here are Scientologists, they don’t really care about Ritalin, they
    just use it to demonize mental health professionals and scare their acolytes away from them. Scientology does not want it’s followers to even engage in talk therapy with a psychiatrist. L Ron
    Hubbard concoted his “History of Man” by feeding his son Benzedrine, an amphetamine like Ritalin, and writings his drug ramblings down.

  • todd

    i dont know about the rest of you, but i wish i didnt need any medications in daily life, unfortunately i do. i think pple that arent experiencing problems and needing medication should leave well enough alone. exercise more, eat right and many of these pple looking to these meds without needing them would probably see some natural increases in energy and stamina. but pple will use them, usually the ones with money to spare, all seeking an easier way to enhance oneself.

  • mamabear

    Happy to hear the last few comments. I am about to start an adhd med. Although I’m not sure what I’ll be perscribed, I am very optimistic that it will help me. I’ve been on anti-D’s for years with no real results. Just recently I’ve been consistantly seeing a counselor who had given me a series of tests never mentioning the idea of adhd, he just wanted to see if his hunch was right. I scored very high on the guidelines for adhd and when he first mentioned it I told him that I thought it was a disorder of hyper people. After I learned more about it it, I was shocked at how many things started to add up. I could care less what people think of me 4 trying a new medication, if it is ritalin or anything else. OF COURSE if you don’t have adhd it’s going to mess you up. From what I hear, the people who really have adhd are highly unlikely to become addicted and the benefits far exceed any side affects. I completetly relate to some of the comments above about being a recluse and inadequate. I swear to you, I have done everything I can to break myself of these things. If this helps, MORE POWER TO ME and more relief for the people who care about me. I do understand the hatred for the drug companies, I have it too. I am however, a big supporter of science and the benefit modern medicine.

  • sean

    They put caffeine in your Pepsi and Coke folks. Not much difference.

  • Mr. Mojo Risin

    Did anyone notice the citation in the first paragraph? I agree with you all when you blame corporations or big pharma for this pill taking frenzy that’s gripped the U.S. in the past 15-20 years, but it was the Chronicle of Education that published the essay.

    Teachers love doping children because that makes their job easier. When children are docile and complacent, teachers are happy.

    At the risk of insulting our nation’s educators, I have to say the obvious. Teachers are more concerned with crowd control rather than education. It’s not really their fault. In my state the state dept. of education’s curriculum is so antiquated, that it’s a no brainer why little suzy or johnny needs ritalin and adderall to pay attention to crap like the Scarlet Letter. Reading Hawthorne will influence a whole generation of kids that reading sucks. There’s more up-to-date literature that has the same themes. Education in general also convinces people that they can’t do anything without a diploma or degree. That’s largely true, but there are cases where people pursued their non-academic talent to great success.

    Education is about conformity and drugs aid in that endeavor. I blame the education cartel in this country for its acquiescence to Big Pharma.

  • Kate

    A society of drugged individuals?! This is so defiant of common sense. This country needs to wake up to the legalized drug-pushing that is going on: doctors, parents, students, young adults…There are subtle and severe effects to ingesting poisons, which is what these drugs are. Just by virtue of being synthetic, they are going to have a destructive effect on the body. That is the lesser worry, though. What these drugs do the minds, emotions and integrity of people is far worse.

  • Katharine

    Bio-what? I thought it said “ethicists.” Taking drugs is no different morally than eating healthily or getting a good night’s sleep? Are these people in earnest? Difficult not to suspect that they have been studying the effects of long-term drug use on themselves.

  • Steve

    As a healthcare professional I have considerable experience with the use of these agents–the upsides and the downsides. These medications are regulated for good reason; the mechanism of action in this class of medication that makes them so useful in certain patient populations also make these agents subject to misuse and abuse. I am sure folks are familiar with methamphetamine. The prescription stimulants are in the same class and each can be misused in the same way methamphetamine is. One could split hairs about slight differences between these agents, however, the bottom line is all of these agents if taken in high enough doses will result in the same effect. And, all are subject to dose escalation and the attendant effects on one’s daily activities of living, aka dependence. The authors make a comparison between these agents and a good night’s sleep and healthy diet. Hmm- does good sleep hygiene and a proper diet lead to the behavioral effects seen with stimulant dependence? I think not! I would certainly like to have a safe cognitive enhancing medication available. Unfortunately we’re not there yet.

  • Annmomoffour

    I love adderall and think everyone should take it , this world would be a whole lot better .

  • LovingTruth!

    Let’s get on with the dumbing down of this world!

  • Reiner

    I have been using Ritaline for several years now and I must say
    it’s been a great bonus for me. I am grateful to the doctor who
    put me on this medication after diagnosing me with adult ADD. I
    take this opportunity to contradict the chorus of promoters of
    all kinds of snake oils that are supposed to be
    “the alternative” to ritalin and the “right answer” to treat and
    help distracted and fidgety kids and adults who can’t stay on
    task. To me, ritalin has really boosted my actual abilities,
    not by making me smarter, but by allowing me to harness much
    better my mental capabilities, to stay on task and to realise
    what I want to achieve.

    People with ADHD or ADD are often described as those with an
    electric brain, alternating between occasional hyper-focus on one
    task and total loss of staying on any task, people lost in
    clutter and lost in hundreds of unrealised fantasies, driven to
    distraction, full of half cooked ideas and unfinished projects,
    and lost in day dreaming. Much of that describes me to, and there
    is even a certain appeal to the romantic idea that is often
    brought up by those who warn of medication and even dismiss
    the idea that it is a disorder at all: The idea that medicating
    hyperactive children (or adults by implication) is destroying
    their creativity and their natural expression, the romanticism
    about the “wild child” and the “beautiful mind”. To these people
    I say: You don’t know a thing! First, what looks from the outside
    like the “beautiful mind” may be a tortured soul, a restless and
    desperate adult who feels like a looser. Second, with respect to
    creativity: What is the best creative idea without the ability to
    work out the details to make it real?

    I do so much better with Ritalin, and there has not been any
    reduction, rather a boost to my creativity and to my
    self-confidence. I also feared it could become an addiction and
    it may even be a mild addiction. It could not be severe though –
    I can still go for days without Ritalin if I choose so, for
    example, I reduce the dose when I go on a hike or a bike tour.

    Regarding regulation: It is OK that it is to some extent
    regulated. Children’s intake of course needs to be controlled,
    which is even true for cough medicine. But for adults: Why does
    there have to be this strict regulation? A doctor is not allowed
    to prescribe more than a 2 months supply of Ritalin, and there is no way
    to obtain Ritalin legally without prescription. Yet, prescription
    requires seeing a doctor, and that requires health insurance or
    quite a bit of pay to a specialist. Therefore, many people who
    could very well benefit from this medication go untreated. On the
    other hand, the production of Ritalin is very cheap, and the
    substance has been around for many decades without much evidence
    as for organic damage or more than mild side effects. It is much
    less harmless than, say, marijuana, which is less harmless than
    alcohol. I think it is about as dangerous as coffee and cough
    medicine. So: legalise it, make it an over-the-counter medicine.

  • Jamba

    For recreational use,Ritalin is ok;
    all other needs,causes and prescriptions for the effective substance Methylphenidate with included
    “motivations ” from any subscriber/user are

    simply false..

    A Deus

  • Jamba

    Parents and Teachers who didn’t try to enjoy the Substance..
    ..neglected..and thus are now to neglected

    In short
    It’s up to the Subscriber and the User

  • Jamba

    No one !!
    should EVER use Ritalin (METHYLPHENIDATE)
    before the AGE OF 18 YEARS!!!
    (and most certainly not for extended periods,as in months,to begin with!!

    A Deus

  • Jamba

    ..and compulsive,singing
    ..enjoying the Gift that life is..
    Does that make me an addict?

    As long as you bear your inner child’s
    ability to feel..

    ..Mobile phones,Cars,watching Television
    working to pay the bill?..

    My only concern though…

    To All Concering PARENTS and TEACHERS:

    Do not force anyone into the obvious deception.. be told what to do etc.

    True Bliss is accepting the Wonder,total reality itself..
    and everyone is part of it


  • Jamba

    Respect yourselves,being Gods..


  • Christina Viering

    People need to be sensitive to what is helpful and what isn’t.

  • Michael Cassady

    Are mere words so innocuous?_ ‘Boost concentration and mental stamina’, ways to ‘improve our brain function’, to have ‘youthful memory powers’, the ‘smart pills’, medication for children ‘to help them focus their attention’. The train whistle blows; don’t be left standing on the quay. Fear we trust, and smelly testosterone. Feverishly working at studies to satisfy professorial expectations (highly mystified) standing with a meat cleaver at career selection gateways, whose mythic reward-grades represent the ‘up’ or ‘down’ switch to election-oblivion, the grace of an A, B, C, D objectification of marketable worth_ raw ‘survival’, in a word. The list of words mentioned above are among the ones we use at present to make instruments of ourselves_ tendentious little words, say ‘loaded’, no? But who will use our shiny new instrument?, for what? and how? Who’s asking questions? Tweak yourselves away gentile twits: there is ample evidence to show that a civilization would be a poor thing indeed without a full range of very different minds sharing a common mental horizon; awesome surprise: creative, imaginative work cannot do without unfocused dithering, open-ended, purposeless searching, free associating, even resisting the childhood classroom imperatives of surface-order sanctioned by the stick-threat “You may be left out, be made invisible, impressed into the army of the walking dead.‘ Yes, do take your ‘smart pill’, a nice green one, then a ‘happy pill‘, a nice yellow one, to tranquilize away any tender shoots of doubt. Once upon a time, reasonable differing lads and lasses, with a non-prescription blue goo called ‘character,’ found personal ways to master their various capacities and unruly impulses to create a personal path, or fate, but that was BP (Before the pill). Huge, wow, and awesome. Buy pill stocks, it’s patriotic. Don’t ask for whom yon carrot dangles_ (I salivate, I drool) _ it hangs with thee_ sucker! Oh gosh, the train just pulled away without me. By, by good train, and good riddance, by the by.

  • ppcc student

    I have just finished a 10 page research paper as part of a college English class.One of the assignments was to “publish” our work in some way. If not for that assignment,I would not have found this blog. This essay is indeed provocative. I found nothing about using stimulant medications for persons other than those with ADHD. I suppose it makes sense though. Many medications prescribed in good faith end up being abused in some way. I just wonder–is it bravery or stupidity that causes that first person to say, “Hey. I wonder what will happen if I take this”?
    In my research on more conventional methods for treatment of ADHD, the majority of professionals say the most efficient treatment is a combination of behavior therapy combined with medication under close supervision.I think no matter what the treatment for whatever condition you may have, close monitoring of treatments is always going to provide the best long term results.

  • merckx72

    What a bunch of idiots. If you have add then ritalin is for you. If not then you should not be taking it. You have a different chemistry that adhd patients.

  • ThinkATX

    This is why ADHD gets such a bad rep, and why drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin are often casually prescribed and often given to misdiagnosed patients. Drugs aren’t always the answer. I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 4 years old (and back in the 1990’s might I add), I was prescribed Ritalin when I was about 8 or 9. I now (as an adult), take a low dosage of Adderall XR. HOWEVER, I had to go through a rigorous testing process before I even got a single pill. There was lots of diagnostic evaluation (neurological tests, EKGs PET scans etc.) from various Pediatric Neurologists. Which in my personal opinion is how it should be. Testing, as irritating as it is, very important. Even now my prescription is carefully monitored by my doctor.

    Case in point, there is a slight misconception that because ADHD/ADD meds help those with said learning disabilities focus, they can help anyone focus. That is so false I cannot stress it enough. These drugs are essentially amphetamine based. These meds work for people with ADHD because they have a different brain chemistry. For those people without ADHD, the drugs act as amphetamines do in the first place, perk them up. Its really not much different than taking a mild dose of Speed. I generally discourage friends of mine who want to score these meds in order to “focus” or pull an “all nighter” on homework because I know these pills will not be doing them much good.

    Experimenting with prescription drugs can be unsafe. Forgive me for sounding like a killjoy but that’s just how I feel. These are controlled substances for a reason. They’re amphetamine based, can be very addictive, and result in health complications such as increased heart rate and blood pressure from improper use.

    “merckx72” pretty much hits the nail on the head. ADHD=these drugs could possibly be helpful, NOT ADHD=Not a good idea to take them.

  • Tom

    It cannot hurt the economy. Might help.

    Spiritually, I am not so sure.

  • Tom

    It sounds like the athletics steroid issue. College students will soon discover (or fear) they are at a competitive disadvantage if they don’t push themselves to their limits with drugs like Ritalin to improve performance. In short, I hate the idea that people are motivated to take unnecessary risks based on FEAR. Even if 90% of people could use drugs “responsibly”, I think it can still be setting a bad example, knowing many can not. And for me the idea of dependency of any sort hurts my own self-esteem, hurts my faith that my own inner resources are sufficient, so it seems repulsive to me.

  • Marty

    People seem to think in these situations in black and white. If drugs are illegal, either nobody’s doing them or only the sort of people who you don’t want to consider humans are doing them – certainly, nobody you love or care about is doing them! If drugs are legal, then everybody’s going to do them because they’re so tempting and addicting then everyone will soon be addicted and society will crumble. Certainly the truth for both cases is somewhere in the middle. The population who will seek out mind-alteration or mind-enhancement if drugs were legal are probably the same population who seek out the same ends with the legal drugs currently available (Nicotine, Tobacco, Caffeine, other unregulated things) and the illicit ones. There’s also a gradient of the type of user – one time, medical, social, casual/recreational, binge user, addict. Society is willing to accept recreational users of alcohol, even marijuana depending on the social circle. Why not other things? I don’t really have a good answer for that. It’s quite possible for there to be recreational users who uses as responsibly as medical users with any substance.

  • sidjhon

    Ritalin, a drug works as a mild central nervous system stimulant. It stimulates central nervous system through its effects on working chemicals of brain and nerves. As one of the most useful pharmaceutical drugs, ritalin contributes to reduce the symptoms and severity of hyperactivity in prepubescent children especially.

  • Dar

    Hey jhn:

    “There is no scientific basis to your claim that all stimulants must give you a temporary rise in functioning followed by a “crash.” That’s folk science.”

    If you believe that’s only “folk science” you don’t live in the real world.

  • http://TwoSistersArtandSoul Lisette Root

    If I had a choice of Ritalin, Prozac, or any other newly developed drug, or marijuana, I would pick marijuana every time. If you believe in God, then should you question the natural receptors we have which respond to God given herbs and other truly natural substances, (coca leaves, tobbacco, alcohol) ? We humans are the ones fooling around with the ingredients God used to make us, and judging people (bad, evil, stupid,etc.) by their preference and responses to these man made mixtures seems a little hypocritical to me. If all drugs were available to everyone, I would wager that most people would use the plants, and not the pharmaceuticals. Even though alcoholism, for example, is a destructive thing to alcoholics, most people are not alcoholics even though their access to alcohol is the same. Overall, I think we are actually talking money here, and that is the most dangerous thing of all. Legalize all drugs, but tax the most destructive man made drugs at the highest rate. Then let people live their lives without fear of doing illegal things.

  • andy t.

    This seems like a step in a positive direction.

    I took ritalin during block exams last year, I study physiotherapy and the workload is extremely large, not to mention difficult. I went from a grade point average of 6 (on a scale of 1-7) to a perfect grade point average after exams. If that is no results I dont know what else to say.

    These drugs DO NOT make you smarter – they merely facilitate more productive study for people who already have a drive to succeed. When time is your enemy, why not up the efficiency and get more out of your study periods?

    Following exams I ceased taking the drug as I no longer needed it. Sure, I missed the feeling, but I have enough will power to know that if you dont need it then you shouldnt be taking it. With regard to weight loss; I was aware of the appetite supressing effects of this drugs so I was actively aware of eating and made sure I maintained a healthy diet even if I wasnt hungry.

    I currently take modifinal, a anti-narcoleptic drug similar to provigil several times a week when I study. I have done so throughout semester and I do not regret it one bit. In the time I have to study I am able to fully apply myself, allowing me to achieve exceptional results whilst maintaining a healthy work/social life.

    Conclusion: DO YOUR RESEARCH! Don’t take the drugs without reading about side effects and correct dosages. Only take them for beneficial purposes (study) as appose to recreational use. Responsible use of this medication can lead to great results in the world of ethics.

    Once finishing undergrad, I will be studying medicine. Let me ask you this; Would you prefer your doctor to have graduated with top marks having taken ritalin throughout his studies? Alternatively, would you feel comfortable with a doctor who ‘just got by’ due to the mountainou workload of a medical degree? This needs no explanation, and this definately needs no ethical evaluation.

  • Hector Neuhauser

    Hey…. Smart blog article. We attempted bring your blog and it appeared look at. I was pulling it up on a android phone. It may have been only this iphone though. I am exactly sure.. It may be something to it. Anyhow…. The blog post was informative. Keep up the awesome work and I’ll check it out in the near future. Bye Bye!!

  • Stefania Keville

    Hello! It is a nice day,have a good weekend!

  • Bono

    Nobody is putting a gun in your head to take those pills.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar