I grew up with ritalin back in the days when no one even heard of ADHD (it was called ADD back then).
My grandparents were firmly against it, but my parents were running out of options. I did crazy things like color the walls, run around the house at night, and take the christmas decorations down and put them neatly on the floor. Not to mention, I couldn't sit still for more than 10 seconds.
They took me to a child psychiatrist, and after a couple years of visits and group therapy sessions with other "troubled" children (ages 7-9), they decided that I'd be a candidate to use ritalin.
In first grade, they separated us kids into 4 different reading groups depending on our level of ability. I was the lowest reading level. The first day I received my ritalin medication, I jumped from the lowest reading group to the highest reading group.
Now, I'm not saying it made me smarter, but it made me capable of performing and focusing on what I already knew.
Ritalin is a really temporary drug. You take a dosage every day, and the effects last only a couple hours. So when you get home from school, your back to bouncing off the walls.
I stopped taking ritalin my freshmen year in high school, mostly because your body chemistry changes, and it no longer has the same effect on you. I ended up switching to a long-term effect anti-depressant drug, which has done wonders in restoring confidence, focus, and purpose in my life. I still take it today.
When it comes to the controversy of prescribing ritalin, I think its really a philosophy war. Do you change the child or do you change society? I agree; we're probably very sick as a society, if our children can't grow up as they are and still be "productive members of society." But I don't really know how to accomodate these malconformants. If I hadn't gone on drugs, I'd probably be working at McDonald's right about now instead of preparing to enter my Senior year of college. Actually there's probably a good chance I would be in jail about now too. Of course this is all speculation.
This whole sickness of society idea was wonderfully addressed by Ted Kaczynski in his famous Unabomber Manifesto. The most important points regarding this are the lack of the power process and the surrogate activities we replace them with. This basically means, that we no longer feel like we're providing for our survival, and we replace that need with hobbies like Computer Science :)
So in our current society, we have these requirements that you be a productive member of society, or else you don't fit in very well. See Fight Club for related info.
But the truth of the matter is, I don't think I'd willingly give up my computers and my dreams of going into space. That said, I don't think I'd want to give up my drugs either. If I did, I'd have to face a road I have a good feeling there's no positive end to.
Memoirs of a Mad Scientist
Near-Earth Asteroid Mining