A Name That Sparks Relief and Controversy
Ritalin facts are intriguing whether we’re talking about the history of the drug, its applications, or the contentious debate revolving around the prescriptions given to adults and children with ADHD. Ever since this drug first came into being in 1948, it has fostered a uniquely captivating place in the history of medications for treating mental illness. So let’s take a look at these facts, one by one, to paint a clearer picture of this often misunderstood drug that is technically called methylphenidate.
Ritalin’s Rattling Effect in a Vast World of Pharmaceuticals: the Early Years
- Ritalin made its worldly debut in the stomach of a rat when chemists, working for a company known as CIBA, were awarded a patent for it in 1948. The drug was created from a combination of stimulants such as caffeine and ephedrine. That rat’s name was Simon; don’t ask me how I know that.
- The first rats given Ritalin were observed to become more manageable, calmer and more focused, which encouraged the scientists into hypothesizing that it would have the same effects on humans.
- Novartis, the pharmaceutical giant you may have heard of, later acquired CIBA and its rights to Ritalin. Novartis is now the leading supplier of Ritalin in the world.
- A lesser known fact about the history of Ritalin is that it was first used to treat Mohr's syndrome in 1950 which consists of episodic neuromuscular disturbances, a cleft lip, and a split tongue, among other abnormalities.
- In 1955, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Ritalin as an oral tablet listing its active ingredient as methylphenidate hydrochloride. For the first few decades of its existence, it was relatively unknown and not prescribed widely by any means.
The Exponential Growth in the Use of Ritalin to Treat ADHD
- Since 1990, one of the most notable Ritalin facts is that there has been a 700% increase in the use of it.
- An advocacy group known as Children and Adults with Attention Deficit (CHADD) were huge proponents of the use of Ritalin to treat ADHD. Since they actually received funding from CIBA, the company that made Ritalin at the time, many perceived this to be an inexcusable conflict of interest. Nonetheless, the group played a huge role in bringing the drug to widespread attention and the tremendous spike in usage.
- The side effects of Ritalin may include rapid or arrhythmic heart beat, insomnia, irritability, dizziness, and headaches. Some severe reactions might include weight loss, agitation, changes in appetite and sleep habits, and facial tics.
- Shortly after ingestion, Ritalin kicks in and usually has effects that last for three hours. It increases heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure while increasing alertness and stimulates nerve cells that aren't working as well as they should.
- Since it is a central nervous stimulant similar to cocaine and amphetamines (although the affects are milder) people do abuse it and use it as a recreational drug. Its street names are vitamin R, Rit, and lumpy alcohol.
- The reasons behind how Ritalin works to relieve ADHD symptoms aren't exactly known, but researchers do believe that it alters biochemical pathways that are involved in screening irrelevant stimuli because it works to increase the action of neurotransmitters known as catecholamines.
- Methylphenidate is considered a Schedule II controlled substance which means that both production and distribution are tightly controlled.
- It’s still a controversial drug because many people think it’s overprescribed (and used as a blanket to squelch all sorts of behavior that may not actually be ADHD), misused and abused.
- The pros and cons of using Ritalin for ADHD should be considered very carefully, using the advice of doctors.
NB: The content of this article is for information purposes and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.
National Drug Intelligence Center: https://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs6/6444/index.htm
United States Drug Enforcement Agency: FDA Drug Approval Information
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
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