The term “smart drug” is a misnomer, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday, cautioning parents against the off-label use of Ritalin or Concerta to help students focus during exams.
The agency said that with the college entrance exam season approaching, some parents have reportedly encouraged their children to take “smart drugs” to sharpen their attention, causing them to suffer from side effects such as hallucinations.
The widely held view of Ritalin and Concerta as smart drugs is inaccurate, the department said, adding that their main ingredient, the central nervous system stimulant methylphenidate, means they are classified as Schedule 3 controlled drugs used for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
According to the Controlled Drugs Act (管制藥品管理條例), addictive narcotic drugs, psychotropic drugs and other drugs requiring regulation are controlled drugs which “shall be classified into four schedules by their potential for habitual use, dependence, abuse, and danger to the society” and “may only be used for medical and scientific purposes.”
Ritalin and Concerta can only be taken by patients who have been diagnosed with ADHD and have obtained a special prescription from a physician who has been licensed to administer controlled drugs by the Food and Drug Administration.
The health department said that Ritalin and Concerta are not capable of enhancing intelligence and when used without a physicians’ guidance, may cause side effects such as hallucinations, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea, problems with vision, palpitations and irregular pulse.
Medical facilities and pharmacies should not provide these drugs to anyone without a prescription, the administration said, adding that it advises the public not to purchase the drugs on illicit Web sites or to pretend to have ADHD in order to procure the drugs legally.