Ritalin. Wonder pill?
Photo: Gil Nehoshtan

Ritalin for the masses

Doctors can now prescribe concentration, memory enhancing drugs to anyone who wants them

Just in time for university midterm exams, the Israel Medical Association announced that it would allow doctors to prescribe Ritalin to anyone who wants it, regardless of medical issues, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.


The temptation to improve motor and cognitive skills through drug intervention is one many students deal with on a daily basis, especially when confronted with a barrage of stressful exams. Ritalin is known to improve concentration while drugs used to treat Alzheimer's, such as Aricept, prevent memory loss.


"Everyone has the right to make the most of themselves so long as it doesn't hurt or endanger others," explains the head of the IMA's Ethics Board, Prof. Avinoam Reches.


"Though a person may not suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, if Ritalin helps him concentrate then it is allowed. It is the same for memory-improvement drugs. If they help a person with slightly worsened cognitive skills then there is no reason not to give them to him," he says.


However, adds Reches, the state will not help pay for these drugs unless medical need has been proven. In other words, students who need some outside help during exams will have to pay the full price for Ritalin, and will not receive financing from their HMOs.


This has prompted opposition to the new rule, with many saying that it will widen the socio-economic gaps in education. There is also the matter of side effects of the drugs, which include headaches and dizziness.


A position paper written by the bureau says a doctor may honor a patient's request for prescriptions but is not obligated to do so. If the doctor does indeed decide to prescribe an unnecessary drug he must have the patient sign a release form and perform regular checkups.


'Ritalin ruined my psychometric exam'

The new orders will no doubt provide an outlet for many students who up until now had to obtain Ritalin and its counterparts in a variety of roundabout ways.


"I decided to take Ritalin before the psychometric exam because I was scared I wouldn't be able to concentrate for three hours straight," says Omer, now a law student.


"I didn't have any trouble getting the medication. I just asked a friend who uses Ritalin to give me a few pills, and two days before the test I took one as a trial."


Omer recounts that after having no side effects from the first pill, he decided to take another on the morning of the exam.


"For the first hour everything was fine, but then I started to feel spaced out. My eyes focused on one dot on the page and didn’t move from there. I couldn't function. Later I began to feel nauseous and had to go out to use the bathroom. Ritalin destroyed my psychometric exam. No way I'm using it again," he says.


Omer adds that some of his friends, those who had more positive experience with Ritalin, have become dependent on the drug. "Some guys who study with me get a box of pills before each exam period and that's how they survive the stressful weeks. People who were unable to sit and study for two hours suddenly study for ten hours straight," he explains.


"I also have a friend who swallows Ritalin before parties. He claims it makes his evening a lot better. Another friend takes Ritalin before going to the movie theater. She claims it's the only way she can follow the plot."


Adi, a student of Psychology, says she took Ritalin in an attempt to study but instead "had 10 horrible hours of dizziness and nausea". People around her told her she behaved indifferently, as though she was depressed. "I haven't touched the pill since then and I won't ever do so without consulting a doctor," she says.


"On the one hand, Ritalin really does improve performance, but on the other hand it cancels out your ability to acquire tools for learning," explains Ben, a 28-year old student who experimented with the drug. "It's a magical solution. For a moment it brings up the question of whether your achievements are real or if they depend on a pill. That's why I don't want to get addicted."



פרסום ראשון: 02.07.11, 12:03
 new comment
This will delete your current comment