Well­ness Arti­cles

ADHD Drug Alters the Brain in Young Chil­dren

A Decem­ber 13, 2003 arti­cle on WebMD, fea­tured research show­ing that early use of the com­monly pre­scribed ADHD drug, Ritalin, can lead to depres­sion later in life. This evi­dence is based on new stud­ies per­formed on rats. The arti­cle does note that it is an open ques­tion as to whether what passes for depres­sion in lab rats has any­thing to do with depres­sion in humans, but the evi­dence of the effect on the brain, accord­ing to this study was clear.

The find­ings come from a research team led by William A. Car­lezon Jr., PhD, direc­tor of the behav­ioral genet­ics lab­o­ra­tory at McLean Hos­pi­tal and asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at Har­vard Med­ical School. The study appeared in the Decem­ber 15, 2003 issue of Bio­log­i­cal Psychiatry.

In a news release Car­lezon was quoted as say­ing, “Rats exposed to Ritalin as juve­niles showed large increases in learned-​helplessness behav­ior dur­ing adult­hood, sug­gest­ing a ten­dency toward depres­sion. These rats also showed abnor­mally high lev­els of activ­ity in famil­iar envi­ron­ments. This might reflect basic alter­ations in the way rats pay atten­tion to their surroundings.”

The arti­cle stated that there are some close sim­i­lar­i­ties between Ritalin and Cocaine. Accord­ing to the arti­cle, although Ritalin and Cocaine have dif­fer­ent effects on humans, their effects on the brain are very sim­i­lar. The arti­cle noted that when given to pre­teen rats, both drugs cause long-​term changes in behav­ior. Car­lezon and col­leagues explained that the drug short-​circuits the brain’s reward sys­tem. That would make it dif­fi­cult to expe­ri­ence plea­sure — a “hall­mark symp­tom of depression.”

These exper­i­ments sug­gest that pread­o­les­cent expo­sure to Ritalin in rats causes numer­ous com­plex behav­ioral adap­ta­tions, each of which endures into adult­hood,” Car­lezon and col­leagues con­clude. “This work high­lights the impor­tance of a more thor­ough under­stand­ing of the endur­ing neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal effects of juve­nile expo­sure to psy­chotropic drugs.”

Ran­dom Article

From the August 3, 2003 issue of the peer-​reviewed sci­en­tific jour­nal, the Jour­nal of Ver­te­bral Sub­lux­a­tion Research, comes a case study of

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