Almost 30 million prescriptions for Ritalin and similar drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were written last year in the United States; 23 million were for children. While these drugs are among the most widely prescribed medicines in the world, they also remain one of the most controversial.
The latest chapter in the debate over the safety of ADHD drugs: The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) investigation regarding a link between Ritalin and cancer — based on a small University of Texas study.
The findings showed damage to the chromosomes of 12 children who had taken Ritalin for three months.
And while the Texas researchers claimed their study was far too small to prompt the parents of attention deficit patients to abandon Ritalin and may contain some methodology flaws, the FDA, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Environmental Protection Agency found the results merited public concern and further study.
A grant proposal is in the works at the NIH to fund a much larger probe in 2006, involving many more patients and a variety of drugs.

Labeling Changes?
The news about Ritalin’s possible link to cancer comes in juxtaposition with another health issue surrounding the class of ADHD medications known as methylphenidates, to which Ritalin belongs.
In fact, the FDA has been considering labeling changes to all methylphenidates due to potential psychiatric events and cardiovascular side effects. A previous review uncovered:
Thirty-six psychiatric events (such as hallucinations and suicide ideation) for Concerta, compared to 16 for Ritalin and other methylphenidates.
Concerta had 20 cardiovascular event reports; other methylphenidates had four.
Some critics, however, believe labeling changes may not be the answer.
According to the director of the child and adolescent psychiatry clinic at Jackson Memorial Hospital and an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine, labeling is an oversimplification of the problem and doesn’t address the many other problems that are affecting the outcome.

sources: Cancer Letters February 16, 2005
New York Times July 1, 2005
Forbes July 1, 2005

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Many of the drugs used to treat ADHD are not only potentially hazardous, but they are unnecessary if your child is treated appropriately.
Even if Ritalin didn’t cause chromosomal damage that could lead to cancer, it is still more potent than cocaine and best left as the very last option in helping to control your child’s behavior.
Instead, educating yourself on the wide variety of safe and natural options available to treat ADHD is an important first step in avoiding drugs like Ritalin and getting your child on the road to optimal mental and physical health.
To get started, please consider implementing the following steps into your child’s life:
Eliminating processed foods, especially those containing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from your child’s diet.
Giving your child plenty of animal-based omega-3 fats and balancing the intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
Replacing soft drinks, fruit juices and pasteurized milk in your child’s diet with pure water.
Radically reducing your child’s intake of grains and sugars.
Spending more time with your children in nature.