Tuesday, June 18 2013, 09:00 AM MDT
Ritalin For Alzheimers
(KUTV) More than five-million Americans and 500,000 Canadians are affected by Alzheimers this year. That number is expected to grow exponentially in the next 20-years as baby boomers grow older.
At this point, there is no cure, but doctors are finding that Ritalin is helping in the treatment of one of the disease's most devastating symptoms--apathy.
"They lack motivation, these are the people who are happy to sit in a chair all day doing nothing and that can be extremely disturbing to their caregivers. It can be confused with depression," Dr. Nathan Herrmann, had of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry at Sunnbrook Health Sciences Center.
Researchers at Sunnybrook were trying to find a way to treat apathy. They prescribed Ritalin to some patients with mild to moderate Alzheimers and found it improved apathy in 21% of people.
Researchers say Ritalin acts on a brain chemical called dopamine, which impacts the reward and attention centers.
"They may then do more self care, they may show interest in their old hobbies, want to go to a movie, want to visit family," Dr. Krista Lanctot, a senior scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center says of the drug's affects.
Dr. Herrmann says more studies need to be done for a longer period of time to see how effective it is long-term.
The patients in the study who did well on Ritalin remain on the drug and researchers say they are continuing to do well.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)