Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

ADD & ADHD Health Center

Font Size

Drug Abusers Can't Learn From Experience

If Speed, Cocaine Handcuff Brain, What About Stimulant ADHD Drugs?

Stimulant ADHD Drugs continued...

"We've looked at Ritalin, although we haven't done the same kinds of experiments as with amphetamine and cocaine," Kolb says. "We do get changes in the brain with Ritalin. The child who is hyperactive may need changes to normalize the brain. But the other way to look at it is to say maybe it is harming these kids. We don't really have an answer to this."

Just because two drugs act a lot alike doesn't mean that both drugs have the same effect on the brain, warns Alcino Silva, PhD, a professor at the UCLA Brain Research Institute. The way the brain changes in response to experience is very, very complex. Researchers are only beginning to understand them.

"Each of these drugs affects different memory systems -- and some of these effects are very counterintuitive," Silva tells WebMD. "It is difficult to say whether the findings with amphetamines and cocaine will be the same with Ritalin. These drugs don't affect single systems. They affect a multitude of memory systems. So these effects may very well be specific to each person or each population."

It's exactly this complexity that Kolb worries about.

"Drugs that are stimulants -- and other drugs as well -- are not benign in their long-term effects," he says. "There may be interactions with learning we need to worry about.

"There is a tendency for people to think that drugs like Ritalin aren't a big deal. And if you have a kid who is tearing the house apart, you don't want to abandon this drug if it's the only thing that makes the kid's life livable. But often it's given because a parent or school has a low tolerance for disruptive behavior. Those are the situations where the ADHD drugs might be used too freely."

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

Post it notes
Symptoms and treatments.
Close up of eye
What's zapping your focus?
man driving car
How to manage your impulses.
contemplating woman
Learn to stop procrastinating.
concentration killers
Woman taking a vitamin or supplement
ADHD and Substance Abuse
Reduce Side Effects ADHD Medications

boy eating egg
smiling man
ADHD in Marriage and Romantic Relationships
Adult man lying awake in bed