Teacher's advice is helpful, but ask pros about Ritalin

People's Pharmacy

October 21, 1997|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D.,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

My son's teacher says he can't sit still and pay attention and she wants him on Ritalin. My wife doesn't believe in drugs. I am caught in the middle. What are the pros and cons of Ritalin?

Although teachers can spot behavior problems in the classroom, your son needs to be evaluated by an experienced therapist. For some children with attention deficit disorder, Ritalin (methylphenidate) can be helpful. It also may cause stomach aches, reduce appetite and slow growth. Kids sometimes have trouble sleeping, but taking the pill early in the day usually prevents this complication.

A child who needs medication and doesn't get it may also suffer negative consequences. Poor performance in school and difficulty with peers can lead to a downward spiral in self-esteem and more serious behavior problems.

Ritalin is neither good nor evil. It is merely a tool to be used in conjunction with special teaching approaches and parental support.

I read about ReVia helping alcoholics overcome their problem. I would like to know how much this medicine would cost. It sounds as though it might be of help to my son, who is addicted to alcohol and drugs. I want to help him get better.

ReVia (naltrexone) has been shown to reduce cravings for alcohol and narcotic drugs. It is not, however, a magic wand.

Alcoholics must be motivated to change before ReVia can help. A treatment program should be comprehensive and include counseling and support.

This medication can be quite expensive. A two-month supply could cost more than $250. But compared to the long-term toll of alcoholism and drug addiction, ReVia may be worth the price.

I have had trouble sleeping for a few years, but I have just realized that my insomnia may be endangering my children. They were in the car with me when I had a close call because I got drowsy, and I am afraid that this could happen again.

When I asked my doctor about sleeping problems he prescribed Ambien, which made me dizzy. Last year I took lorazepam, but it too made me feel funny. When I stopped, I had even more difficulty sleeping.

Is there an herbal medicine that could help me get a decent night's sleep? I can't take anything that would interact with Prozac or Prempro.

Studies have shown that going without sleep for 24 hours can impair driving as much as being legally drunk. Even 17 hours without sleep has a measurable impact on driving alertness and reaction time. In addition, researchers have found that sleepless nights depress the body's immune response, leaving the insomniac more susceptible to viral infections.

Before considering sleeping pills or herbal remedies, ask your doctor if your medications are contributing to the problem. Both Prozac and progesterone (the "pro" in Prempro) can lead to sleeping difficulties in some people. Your physician may be able to prescribe alternatives that are less likely to affect sleep.

Herbs that may be helpful include valerian, hops and catnip. St. John's wort is sometimes beneficial, but we don't know whether it interacts with Prozac.

I am 20 and I think I have a problem with impotence. Please tell me what causes impotence and if there is anything that can be done about it. Can nervousness contribute? What about antidepressants like Zoloft? I would like to have kids some day and hope this difficulty won't prevent that.

Impotence has many possible causes. Some, such as nerve damage or difficulties with blood flow to the penis, are more common in older men. One exception may be damage to nerves caused by an accident or by excessive bicycle riding.

Psychological factors, including "performance anxiety," can definitely have an impact. Worrying about getting an erection can discourage one.

Antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft can sometimes interfere with sexuality.

You should see a urologist who is experienced in diagnosing and treating sexual dysfunction. Whether the problem is physical, psychological or pharmaceutical, there are many successful treatments available.

We are sending you our Guide to Drugs That Affect Sexuality and Treatments for Impotence so you will have an overview of your options. Anyone else who would like a copy may send $2 with a long (No.10) stamped, self-addressed envelope to Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No.YP-120, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

With expert diagnosis and treatment, there is a very good likelihood you will be able to father children.

Write to the Graedons in care of this paper or e-mail questions to pharmacindspring.com.

Pub Date: 10/21/97

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