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Cocaine for Kids?

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Cocaine for Kids?

Posted by
Misty L. Trepke on January 14, 2003 at 22:41:59:


Cocaine For Kids?
By Joel Miller

A new study that casts doubts on whether Ritalin use for younkers
makes them susceptible for drug abuse later in life has sparked
people's attention to a little-known fact: Ritalin reacts in
Junior's brain similarly to cocaine.

Yes, it's true: Methylphenidate (generic moniker for the brand-name
drug Ritalin) targets the pleasure-producing centers of the brain
those that produce dopamine the same way cocaine does.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that makes the physical side of
life fun and pleasurable. When you eat chocolate, for instance, your
dopamine level rises and you get a shot of "happy juice." If you
relied on chocolate for continual euphoria instead of an occasional
pick-me-up, however, you'd get quite fat because your limbic system
(in which dopamine does its duty) is designed to regulate the amount
of the neurotransmitter in your system. To keep you from having too
much, it reabsorbs the stuff; thus, it'd be back to the Hershey's
every little bit.

It's like a mental grandma with a cookie jarshe always gives you
enough to feel good, but never enough to spoil your dinner.

Drugs like marijuana and heroin cheat grandma by making her produce
more cookies than usual, ramping up dopamine production. Remember
the "I Love Lucy" episode in which Lucy and Ethel got a job at a
candy factory and the production belt started kicking out more
goodies than they could process? That's the picture. But, as Dominic
Streatfeild points out in "Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography," blow
is craftier that pot or smack:

"Instead of simply cranking up production in the brain," explains
Streatfeild, "what cocaine does is to block its reuptake. It does
this by hitting a molecule called the dopamine transporter, bonding
to, and thus disabling it. As more cocaine is taken, the more
dopamine transporters are kept busy, the less dopamine is
reabsorbed, thus the more dopamine there is floating around the
better you feel."

What's interesting with Ritalin is that it works the same way. To be
sure, cocaine and Ritalin have different molecular structures, but
they are Tweedledee and Tweedledum pharmacologically.

"According to animal studies, Ritalin and cocaine act so much alike
that they even compete for the same binding sites on neurons,"
writes Brendan I. Koerner for Slate. They both vie to block the same
dopamine transporters like two suitors attracted to the same girl.

Coke and Ritalin produce results so similar that test animals do not
even discriminate between the two drugs.

Writes Richard DeGrandpre, author of "Ritalin Nation," "The
laboratory procedures that led to the New York Times' reporting
that 'monkeys hooked up intravenously will inject themselves [with
cocaine] repeatedly, rejecting food, sex and sleep,' also led to the
finding, not reported by the Times, that lab animals given the
choice to self-administer comparable doses of cocaine and Ritalin do
not favor one over the other."

I suppose the paper of record thought it too much a shocker to
report that "the most commonly prescribed psychotropic medicine for
children in the United States," as DeGrandpre puts it, is comparable
in effect to a drug widely thought to be one of the most habituating
on earth (perhaps it wasn't fit to print).

DeGrandpre notes the paradox: Why aren't all these members of Gen Rx
becoming addicted?

The main reason, as he points out, is that people usually become
habituated to drugs they take in non-medical situations. Plenty of
people take very strong opiates as painkillers in hospitals and
never become addicted. But if taken in different situations and with
different expectations from the user, the results could be
habituation. The drug's chemistry is, after all, only part of the
drug experience.

Of course, Ritalin can be had and used in non-medical contexts.
DeGrandpre notes many such cases, including kids selling their
prescriptions to their fellows instead of taking the drug, kids
stealing Ritalin from the school nurse's office, even teachers
stealing it from their kids.

Explains Koerner, "Recreational users frequently crush their supply
into fine powder for nasal delivery [as cocaine is usually ingested]
or, in extreme cases, melt it into an injectible solution [as
Sigmund Freud used to take his cocaine]."

Despite the similarity with cocaine and the ease of abuse made all
the easier by its prolific prescription Ritalin remains legal and
lauded, while cocaine is profoundly illicit.

Re: Cocaine for Kids? (Archive in brain chemisry.)

Posted by Walt Stoll on January 15, 2003 at 11:49:58:

In Reply to: Cocaine for Kids? posted by Misty L. Trepke on January 14, 2003 at 22:41:59:

Thanks, Misty!



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