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How Well Does Ritalin Work for ADHD?

Ritalin and related drugs are a mainstay of treatment for ADHD, but research shows that evidence supporting their use is weak.
Child school homework

For decades a mainstay in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, has been the stimulant drug Ritalin. It is also sold under the generic name methylphenidate and brand names Concerta and Metadate.

Little Good Evidence That Ritalin Works for ADHD:

Now, a new analysis of 185 randomized controlled trials by the highly regarded and independent Cochrane Review concludes that the evidence of benefit for children with ADHD is poor. According to one of the key authors of the report,

“Our expectations of this treatment are probably greater than they should be.”

The investigators noted that:

“Most trials were small and of low quality. Treatment generally lasted an average of 75 days, making it impossible to assess the long-term effects of methylphenidate.”

Side Effects of Ritalin:

Side effects included sleeping problems and decreased appetite. The authors call for large clinical trials of non-drug treatments for ADHD.

Cochrane Review, November 25, 2015

We will look forward to seeing the results of such randomized clinical trials. In the meantime, parents and grandparents who would like to learn more about non-drug treatments might wish to listen to our hour-long interview with Dr. Sandy Newmark, director of clinical programs at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center and author of ADHD Without Drugs: A Guide to the Natural Care of Children with ADHD.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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