Drug Types

Aside from stimulant medication hyperactive children are also given tranquilizers and antidepressants. Tranquilizing drugs such as Mellaril and Thorazine are prescribed about three per cent of the time. These are normally reserved for extremely hyperactive or aggressive children. A number of side effects are associated with these pills such as sleepiness, inattention, allergic reactions, shaking, and muscle stiffness.

Antidepressants like Tofranil, Aventyle, and Elavil also are seldom prescribed. Sometimes they are given to children who are extremely sad or depressed. These drugs may cause headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, heart palpitations, and constipation.

Giving a child who already looks overstimulated stimulant medication doesn’t seem to make sense. Researchers, however, believe that stimulant medication paradoxically restores hyperactive children’s body chemistry, so they can control their behavior better. Of the stimulant drugs, Ritalin is prescribed most often (82 per cent of the time), followed by Dexedrine (nine per cent), and Cylert (six per cent). If you look on a pill bottle containing Ritalin tablets, you may see another name on the label, Methylphenidate. This is the generic or class name used for Ritalin.

Since Ritalin is the most widely used stimulant drug, as well as the most frequently cited in the literature, I have concentrated most on it. If you would like more information on drugs children take, I recommend reading, Children on Medication: A Primer For School Personnel, by Kenneth Gadow (1979).