Ritalin 'Cocaine Properties' May Lead To Later Drug Abuse
From New Scientist
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 for November.
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 ADHD.
``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 drug addiction.
``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.''

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