Friday, February 8, 2013

Attention Deficit Drugs and Quotas

The seventh grade was a change for me after excelling in the sixth grade.  I lost interest in mathematics and was doing poorly.  My mind was always somewhere else.  My academic testing showed that I was capable of doing the work.  My parents and teachers encourage me to do better to no avail.  I was bored with school and just not interested.  I was a well-disciplined child with no trauma or events to cause my poor classroom performance.  Today, I probably would have been labeled with ADD and given a prescription.  I think my wife would tell you I still have attention deficit but I’m not really sure what she said.

The DEA sets manufacturing quotas for controlled substances based on demand.  In 2000, the amphetamine quota was 9,007 KG and the 2010 quota was 18,600 KG.  The 2000 quota for methylphenidate (Ritalinâ/Concertaâ) was 14,957 KG and the 2010 quota was 50,000 KG.  To put this in real numbers, in 2010 there could be 930 million 20mg amphetamine tablets and 2.5 billion 20mg methylphenidate tablets. This could support approximately 9.34 million individuals taking one tablet daily.  Adderallâ sales alone in 2002 were $520 million.  The United States consumes at least 80 percent of the world’s production of “legal” stimulant prescriptions.  I wonder how that compares with the illegal cocaine consumption. 

There is something wrong with this picture.  Why have childhood diseases increased?  We have more Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, and ADD.  There are of course cases that seem to have no other alternatives and take the drug with success.  But are there really millions of such cases?

Keep in mind amphetamines and methylphenidate are stimulants we use to call speed.  The recent death by suicide of a college student raises serious questions.  Without speculation, there are those who take these drugs in order to attain a performance goal for the future- all the while the future risk is real.  As with most drug therapies, the immediate promise of relief outweighs any potential unrealized risk.

These types of stimulant drugs cause changes in brain chemistry.  This is a form of long-term stress where you are pushing your short-term physical assets beyond your long-term capabilities.  There will be a price to pay.

Common effects (not side effects) include headache, insomnia, irritability, loss of appetite, delayed growth, and a roller coaster effect of up then down.  Serious effects include addiction, sudden death, dependence, and serious cardiovascular adverse reactions.  Psychological disorders include behavior and thought problems, new or worse bipolar illness, aggressive behavior and psychotic symptoms (hearing voices, believing things that are not true, or manic behavior).  
Alternatives to drugs may include homeopathics for the individual.  Combination products include Focus CP (for children),Gaia Kids Attention Daily Herbal drops, Focus HP HP (for adults) and Cerecomp.  Food allergies can make behaviors worse as they can increase cortisol resulting in racing thoughts.  Red and yellow food dyes are known problems in some individuals.  It should be obvious that a sugar and heavy carbohydrates can produce hyperactivity and hypoglycemia.  A successful alternative approach can be individualized without serious risk.

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