- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
stimulant Ritalin, a drug used to help children with attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder, may cause long-term changes in the brain, researchers
- The changes look similar to those seen with other stimulants
such as amphetamine and cocaine, at least in rats, the team at the University
of Buffalo found.
- ``Clinicians consider Ritalin to be short-acting,'' Joan
Baizer, a professor of physiology and biophysics who led the study said
in a statement.
- ``When the active dose has worked its way through the
system, they consider it 'all gone.' Our research with gene expression
in an animal model suggests that it has the potential for causing long-lasting
changes in brain cell structure and function.''
- But Baizer said that Ritalin, known generically as methylphenidate,
probably is not addictive in the way drugs of abuse are if it is used properly.
- ``Children have been given Ritalin daily for many years,
and it is extremely effective and beneficial, but it's not quite as simple
as a short-acting drug,'' she said. ``We need to look at it more closely.''
- High doses of amphetamine and cocaine have been found
to switch on genes known as ``immediate early genes'' in brain cells. One
of the genes, called c-fos, has been linked with addiction when it is activated
in certain parts of the brain.
- The researchers gave rat pups sweetened milk carrying
methylphenidate in comparable doses and at similar times to what a child
- C-fos genes were activated in their brains in a pattern
similar to that seen in cocaine and amphetamine use, the researchers told
a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego.
- ``These data do suggest that there are effects of Ritalin
on cell function that outlast the short term and we should sort that out,''
- She said perhaps a gene chip -- a microarray -- could
be used to see just which genes are turned on and off by methylphenidate.