Disorders and Ritalin Use

by Susan Willets on September 12, 2008

Ritalin and Psychiatric Disorders

Children and teens who have not been diagnosed with other emotional or mental disorders and who are not taking other medications can usually safely use methylphenidate as a treatment for ADHD. However, children suffering from various mental illnesses and emotional disorders need to be especially cautious when taking Ritalin, Ritalin-SR, Ritalin-LA, generic Ritalin and any other form of this drug. In cases where the disorder has not been identified, the use of Ritalin can exaggerate the symptoms making them more prominent. It’s important to monitor any psychiatric side effects and attend to them immediately. In many cases, if there are other emotional disorders present, Ritalin should not be prescribed.

Who Should Not Use Ritalin (Methylphenidate)

Anxiety Disorders and Ritalin

People with psychological disorders should not take Ritalin. These include individuals with severe anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, social phobia and post-traumatic stress disorder. Should a person suffer from these conditions a doctor may avoid prescribing Ritalin altogether because the side effects of the Ritalin may increase their symptoms and make them worse. There are some instances where Ritalin is the optimal drug and needs to be offered. In these cases, if the anxiety disorder is treated first, Ritalin can often be used with minimal side effects.

Alcohol and Ritalin

People who drink should almost never use Ritalin. This is because alcohol increases the stimulant effect of methylphenidate. As a result, a person can lose the ability to concentrate, become jittery and highly irritable. Simple tasks such as driving a car, operating machinery, riding a bicycle and many others can become dangerous. Since Ritalin can also be abused people with alcohol problems are more likely to abuse Ritalin than those who do not drink.

Bipolar Disorder and Ritalin

The two main features of bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic-depression) are depression and mania. Depression is a mental illness often displayed as a severe form of sadness, and affects the body, mood and thoughts. Mania is the opposite. Mania is characterized by hyperactivity, rapid thoughts and speech, jitters, irritability, euphoria and sometimes hallucinations. A lighter version of mania is known as hyper-mania and seldom involves irritability or hallucinations.

There is such a medical program as a combination of methylphenidate and various medications to control bipolar disorder. This is usually the case when a child has been diagnosed as Bipolar/ADHD. Sometimes there is justification for placing an individual with this condition on a stimulant drug. If symptoms improve over time then there is probably no concern with using Ritalin for someone with a Bipolar condition.

The concern about using a stimulant with bipolar disorder is that the patient might develop severe mania as a result. The individual’s behavior and state of mind needs to be constantly monitored should that be the case and even subtle changes in behavior and mood should be reported to the treating physician.

Tourette’s Syndrome and Ritalin

Children and youth with Tourette’s syndrome and/or tics should avoid methylphenidate since it can worsen the symptoms of these disorders. If Ritalin is found to be the best medication for children with these disorders, lower dosages may prove to be successful. Discuss all options thoroughly with your physician and monitor consistently for any problems.

Heart Conditions and Ritalin

Perhaps the most serious conditions that warrant avoiding the use of any stimulants are heart conditions, including a congenital heart defect, heart rhythm disorder or a recent heart attack. Children with these conditions have died suddenly without warning from using methylphenidate and other stimulants.

Epilepsy and Ritalin

Epilepsy and other seizure disorders also place children at serious risk when combined with methylphenidate absorption. While it is risky, there has been some success administering Ritalin when the Epilepsy is well-controlled. It is imperative to always discuss a full, detailed medical history with a physician before placing your child or teen on Ritalin.

Pregnancy and Ritalin

Any women who are planning to become pregnant, pregnant or nursing should refrain from using Ritalin. It is not known if the drug is dangerous for an unborn baby or can pass through breastmilk to the infant. Any woman planning on becoming pregnant while using methylphenidate needs to discuss her plans with her physician ahead of time.

Addictions and Ritalin

Persons addicted to alcohol or other drugs also need to be especially careful about methylphenidate use. Methylphenidate can interact in a harmful or even lethal manner with illicit drugs or with alcohol abuse. If you are suffering from an addiction, it is best to treat the addiction prior to beginning the use of Ritalin.

Young Children and Ritalin

Children under the age of six should only receive Ritalin under the direct supervision and recommendation of a physician. There are more pronounced side effects for this age group, requiring extra monitoring.

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