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Could ADHD Meds Promote Future Cocaine Use?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

"Ritalin is not very different from cocaine, and it's the most popular ADHD medication," Prof Kantak says. "There's a lot of controversy still surrounding the use of that drug, whether it renders individuals more vulnerable to abusing drugs later on or less vulnerable."

Although most research indicates that ADHD treatment decreases the later risk of drug addiction, Kantak believes treating adolescents is different. She refers to clinical studies published in Pediatrics and the American Journal of Psychiatry which show that teenagers diagnosed with ADHD who start taking Ritalin, but stop before reaching adulthood, could be twice as likely to develop a cocaine habit later on. And she tends to demonstrate a similar phenomena in a rat population with memory, learning and gear shifting difficulties. Those given Ritalin were more predisposed to cocaine when taken off their meds before adulthood.

"Adolescence is the period of the most rapid development of brain structure and function, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, which is the site of dysfunction in ADHD," she says. During the teenage years, the brain's wiring is going through a natural spurt of proliferation and pruning. "You can give drugs during adulthood or during the juvenile stage and it may not have much of a long-lasting impact," she explains. "But you take a brain that is very rapidly transitioning, you add a pharmacological agent on top of that, and you increase the risk of having some long-term consequences."

According to Dr Levinson," I've not seen this addiction correlation in many hundreds of adolescents with ADHD treated with Ritalin, although the vast majority continued treatment in college. Is it possible that starting and then stopping a helpful medication during adolescence like Ritalin vs Strattera( significantly less helpful and structurally different) is key to possible cocaine addiction later on, assuming these data are replicated?"

About Harold Levinson, M.D.

Formerly Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York University Medical Center, Dr. Harold Levinson is currently Director of the Levinson Medical Center for Learning Disabilities in Great Neck, New York. He is a well known neuropsychiatrist, clinical researcher and author. His "highly original" research into the cerebellar-vestibular (inner-ear) origins and treatment of dyslexia and related learning, attention-deficit/hyperactivity and anxiety or phobic disorders has evolved over the past four decades. Levinson's concepts encompass the collective insights derived from the examinations, follow-up and successful treatment of over 35,000 children, adults and even seniors and have led to new methods of screening, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. His expanded theories appear capable of encompassing and/or explaining all reported symptoms as well as most other concepts and experimental data, thus resulting in a truly holistic perspective.

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