Table 3

Portrayal of the non-medical use of methylphenidate in print media, bioethics and public health supported by examples of article headlines as well as the occurrence of reported risks and benefits indicated in parentheses (n).

Print media


Portrayal

“Lifestyle choice”: “better living through chemistry” [39]; “short cut in learning”; “new kind of drug abuse” [18].


Examples of headlines

"Students taking danger drug to help with exams"; " 'Smart pills' are on the rise. But is taking them wise?"; "New campus high: Illicit prescription drugs".


Reported risks*

Physiological addiction (8); palpitations (7); psychological addiction (6); heart attack (5); unspecified cardiac risks (4); loss of appetite (4); hallucinations (4); stroke (2); tremors (2); increase in blood pressure (2); weight loss (2); vomiting (2); dizziness (2); seizures (2); withdrawal symptoms (2); require increasing amounts of drug (1); cardiac arrhythmia (1); overdose (1); changes in brain cell chemistry (1); fatigue (1); death (1); dry mouth (1).


Reported benefits

Boost concentration (8); increase focus (7); increase energy (3); increase alertness (1); reduce appetite (1); eliminate jitters (1); filter out distractions (1); increase motivation (1); accumulate more information in less time (1); increase confidence (1); increase organization (1); increase retention of information (1); think more rationally (1); general feeling of well-being (1); make you feel smarter (1); make mundane tasks seem fun (1); enhance studying (1); do work faster (1); maintain high performance level (1); boost brain activity (1).


Bioethics


Portrayal

"Cognitive enhancement": " 'neuroenhancement' (...) This term includes the use of drugs and other interventions to modify brain processes with the aim of enhancing memory, mood and attention in people who are not impaired by illness or disorder"[40].


Examples of headlines

"Neurocognitive enhancement: what can we do and what should we do?" and "Cosmetic neurology: The controversy over enhancing movement, mentation, and mood".


Reported risks*

Addiction (3); toxicity (1).


Reported benefits

Improve attention (4); improve memory (4); improve performance (2); increase focus (1); improve concentration (1); improve planning (1); think faster (1); stabilize mood (1); promote creativity (1).


Public health


Portrayal

"Abuse", "misuse", "illicit drug use": "Ritalin (Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., East Hanover, NJ) has received the most attention in medical literature, little information is available regarding which specific stimulants are used illicitly by college students" [41].


Examples of headlines

"Student perceptions of methylphenidate abuse at a public liberal arts college" and "Stimulant medication use, misuse, and abuse in an undergraduate and graduate student sample".


Reported risks*

Addiction (2); cardiovascular implications (1); withdrawal symptoms (1); increase in blood pressure (1); headache (1); overdose (1); blocking veins if injected/snorted (1); panic episodes (1); aggressive behavior (1); suicidal or homicidal tendencies (1).


Reported benefits

Decreases fatigue (2); increases energy (1); increases dopaminergic activity (1); maintain high performance level (1); increase alertness (1).


*Coded as physiological/psychological negative effects

Coded as physiological/psychological positive effects

Forlini and Racine BMC Medical Ethics 2009 10:9   doi:10.1186/1472-6939-10-9

Open Data