Ritalin and Adderall are two of the most popular drugs of this decade. This paper will discuss the background, history, and the impact of these two drugs.
Ritalin (formally named as methylphenidate or MPH) is a psychostimulant drug approved for treatment of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and narcolepsy. The chemical formula for Ritalin is C14H19NO2. It consists of functional groups such as aromatic ring, ester, and secondary amine. Ritalin was first synthesized in 1944 by Leandro Panizzon, a chemist at Chemische Industrie Basel (a chemical company in Switzerland), and it was named after his wife Rita. Ritalin was first used to alleviate barbiturate-induced coma, narcolepsy and depression. It was later used to treat memory deficits in the elderly. It was not until early 1960s that it was firstly introduced to treating children with ADHD. It was first licensed by the Food and Drug Administration in 1955 for treating ADHD, prescribed from 1960, and became heavily prescribed in the 1990s, when the diagnosis of ADHD itself became more widely accepted.
The synthesis of Ritalin involves reacting an amino acid such as ?-phenyl-?-(2-piperidinyl)acetic acid with an alcohol such as methanol in the presence of an acid and a water sequestrant such as trimethyl orthoacetate. The water sequestrant is added to the reaction mixture after esterification and then the reaction is allowed to continue. The ?-phenyl-?-(2-piperidinyl)acetic acid methyl ester is then isolated from the reaction mixture. In one variation of the process, the supernatant liquid may be recycled in subsequent runs to increase yield and product purity.
The side effects of Ritalin include:
nervousness, loss of appetite, weight loss, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or headache
serious side effects, including: signs of blood flow problems in the fingers or toes, unusual wounds on the fingers or toes, irregular heartbeat, behavior changes, uncontrolled muscle movements
very serious side effects, including: fainting, seizure, symptoms of a heart attack, symptoms of a stroke
The LD50 of methylphenidate in rats is found to be 190 milligrams per kilogram.
Similar to Ritalin, Adderall(amphetamine) is also a type of central nervous system stimulants used for the treatment of ADHD and a sleep disorder called narcolepsy. The chemical formula for Adderall is C9H13N. It consists of amines, methyl group, and benzyl group. Adderall was first synthesized by a Romanian chemist named Laz?r Edeleanu in 1887. Later in 1929, a biochemist in California named Gordon Alles carried out an experiment on himself, injecting himself with 50 milligrams of the drug to experience its physiological effects. He attempted to develop a drug that would be more effective than ephedrine, which was used for the treatment of asthma, allergies, and colds. As a molecule with a single chiral centre, Adderall exists in two optically active forms, i.e. the dextro- (or d-) and levo- (or l-) isomers or enantiomers. Smith, Kline and French synthesised both isomers, and in 1937 commenced marketing of d-amphetamine, which was the more potent of the two isomers. Sales of Benzedrine and Dexedrine in chemist stores were unrestricted until 1939, when these drugs could only be obtained either on prescription from a registered medical practitioner or by signing the Poison Register. The cognitive-enhancing properties of amphetamine were quickly recognised, with reports of Benzedrine producing improvements in intelligence tests leading to its widespread use to reduce stress and improve concentration and intellectual performance by academics, students and medical professionals.
The first preparation of amphetamine was reported in 1887, numerous synthetic routes to amphetamine have been developed subsequently. The most common method for the synthesis of amphetamine employs a non-metal reduction known as the Leuckart reaction. In the first step, a reaction between phenylacetone and formamide, using additional formic acid or formamide itself as a reducing agent, yields N-formylamphetamine. This intermediate is then hydrolyzed using hydrochloric acid, and subsequently basified, extracted with organic solvent, concentrated, and distilled to yield the free base. The free base is then dissolved in an organic solvent, sulfuric acid added, and amphetamine precipitates out as the sulfate salt.
The side effects of Adderall include:
serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching, severe dizziness, trouble breathing
serious side effects, including: signs of blood flow problems in the fingers or toes, unusual wounds on the fingers or toes, behavior changes, uncontrolled movements
very serious side effects, including: shortness of breath, fainting, severe headache, irregular heartbeat, seizures, extreme tiredness, blurred vision
The LD50 of amphetamine in rats has been found to be within the range of 15 milligrams and 180 milligrams per kilogram.
Impact on Society
It is controversial that these drugs, similar to performance enhancing drugs used by athletes, give an unfair advantage in the education system and whether the use of such drugs is inherently wrong. If the use of these so-called “smart drugs” is considered unfair, it would only be a disadvantage to those who could not afford them. If looking at the issue from an another perspective, test preparation service could also be considered as unfair for those who could not pay for it. There exist numerous methods that students could take advantage of other than drugs. In fact, drugs like caffeine are readily available to the public and can enhance performance as well. Therefore, it is not reasonable to determine if these drugs give an unfair advantage in the education system, neither is it practical to level the playing field for the students. The ethical issues involved could never be completely resolved.
These drugs have indeed become too rampant. Students nowadays are experiencing greater and greater pressures in high schools and universities as the competitiveness continues to grow. The stress that every student has then become the main factor for their appeal to the drugs. Some of the students take these drugs in order to relieve their stress while some do it because of psychological effects. They subconsciously force themselves to believe that these drugs could actually enhance their performance. This situation has gradually transformed into a modern culture. Since most of the users are pushed by the social atmosphere and the increasing competitive nature of society, they are not to be blamed or judged by their decision. Indeed, there is a trend that these drugs are gaining social acceptance. Production and prescription of these drugs rose significantly in recent decade, especially in the United States, as the ADHD diagnosis came to be better understood and more generally accepted within the medical and mental health communities.