Monday, January 12, 2009

Let's not play around with our adolescents!

Methylphenidate (Ritalin) is a very common, in fact the most common, choice for treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). One of its major effects is to interfere with social interaction so that people with ADHD are not overly intrusive or disrespectful of normal social boundaries with others. A recent study of methylphenidate in adolescent rats showed that not only did this medication accomplish that goal, it interfered with social and play behaviors considered to be normal for these rats at this developmental stage. In other words, methylphenidate somewhat overshot the mark when it came to inhibiting pre-medicated behaviors.

Of course, to a parent who is frustrated and tired from managing a child whose behaviors have not demonstrated appropriate boundaries, this can be a welcome change. However, social interactions and recreational activities are important for teaching skills important to a productive adult life. Chemically denying a child these learning opportunities may create more problems later in life, when that child does not have the social skills that promote successful relationships, careers, and stress management.

I of course believe there are many options to consider before medication, and they are discussed elsewhere in this blog. If you do believe methylphenidate is the only rational solution to your child's situation, I would at least recommend closely observing your child's social behavior. If s/he has become a wallflower and swung completely in the opposite direction, at least discuss this change with the prescribing caregiver. There ARE other medications and options that can help set your child up for a successful adulthood...which is one of the primary responsibilities of responsible parenthood.

Vanderschuren LJ, Trezza V, Griffioen-Roose S, Schiepers OJ, Van Leeuwen N, De Vries TJ, Schoffelmeer AN. Methylphenidate disrupts social play behavior in adolescent rats. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2008 Nov;33(12):2946-56. Epub 2008 Feb 27.

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