- LONDON (Reuters) - A medicine regularly taken by millions of hyperactive
children has similar properties to cocaine and could encourage drug abuse
in later life, New Scientist magazine said Thursday.
- Methylphenidate, better known as Ritalin,
is the leading treatment for a neurological condition known as attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which prevents children from concentrating
on a task for more than a few seconds.
- New Scientist said growing concerns over
the long-time effects of the drug, a stimulant that works by making the
neurotransmitter dopamine more available in the brain, have put it on the
agenda for the U.S. National Institutes of Health conference on ADHD, scheduled
- A 1995 study by Nora Volkow, director
of nuclear medicine at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New
York, found that Ritalin's properties were very similar to cocaine. Volkow
said there was no evidence of a link between Ritalin and cocaine abuse
but added 10 to 30 percent of cocaine addicts take it because they have
- ``When we give them Ritalin, the cocaine
problem is resolved,'' she told New Scientist. Another study by Susan Schenk,
a psychopharmacologist at Texas A&M University in College Station,
and Nadine Lambert, a developmental psychologist at the University of California
at Berkeley, followed the progress of 5,000 children with ADHD from adolescence
into early adulthood.
- In a paper to be published in October,
Lambert argues that children on Ritalin are more likely to smoke as adults.
Other data presented by Schenk suggested that they are three times more
likely to develop a taste for cocaine. Other experts were sceptical. Alan
Zametkin, a psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health near
Washington D.C., said he believed stimulants actually reduce the risk of
- ``My theory is that stimulant use allows
kids to be more successful and therefore they develop fewer antisocial
behaviors,'' Zametkin told New Scientist. ``So it's less likely they'll
become drug addicts.''