ADHD: Ritalin Treatment
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, manifests itself as poor attention span. This genetic disorder may be due to a deficiency in neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in the brain. Ritalin or other stimulant medications give dramatic improvement in 70 to 80 percent of children with ADHD. They improve attention span, the ability to follow directions, the ability to complete schoolwork, and the ability to think before acting. Teenagers with ADHD who take Ritalin also drive better and play sports better.
If your child has ADHD, here are some facts about Ritalin and other stimulants:
- First: Most children need two doses of Ritalin per day, one with breakfast and one with lunch. Ritalin usually lasts four hours. Long-acting stimulants that last eight hours are also available. Children who have difficulty finishing their homework are usually helped by a third dose of Ritalin at 4 p.m.
- Second: Give the Ritalin after breakfast, lunch, or a snack. Taken on an empty stomach, Ritalin often causes stomachaches and poor appetite.
- Third: Children who are not disruptive or terribly hyperactive at home, do not need Ritalin during weekends, holidays, or summertime. If peer relations are poor because of impulsive behavior, daily Ritalin may be helpful.
- Fourth: Ritalin is a very safe drug. Side effects are uncommon. A high dosage can cause weight loss. Some children develop irritability, difficulty falling asleep, or easy crying. Rarely, the growth in height will slow down, but it catches up during Ritalin holidays. Your child's height and weight will be monitored while taking Ritalin.
- Finally: Ritalin alone never cures a child's ADHD. Medications without a special education program and behavior management program have limited long-term benefit. Drugs need to be part of a broader treatment program.
If you have other questions about stimulant medications, consult your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 9/1/2004
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.