Recreational Ritalin -
Kids Now Using It for 'Fun'
By Nicole Ziegler

Ritalin, the mild stimulant commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is becoming increasingly popular as a recreational drug among teens and pre-teens.
C H I C A G O -Its street names include "Vitamin R and "R-Ball, and federal drug enforcers list it among the top controlled prescription drugs reported stolen in the United States.
It is Ritalin, the mild stimulant commonly prescribed for young children to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Authorities fear Ritalin is becoming increasingly popular as a recreational drug among teens and pre-teens.
An Area of Concern
"It,s an area of concern, said Rogene Waite, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. "It has the potential for abuse, so we would be looking at that and we,ll continue to monitor it.
Some psychiatrists point out that there are no definitive studies on the extent of any abuse and that Ritalin is milder than other stimulants. Even so, the DEA lists Ritalin, also known as methylphenidate or MPH, as one the agency,s "drugs of concern.
"A significant amount of data from school surveys, emergency room reports, poison control centers, adolescent drug treatment and law enforcement encounters all indicate a growing problem with the abuse of MPH among school children, Gretchen Feussner, a DEA pharmacologist, wrote in a recent report.
Administrators at Lake Zurich Middle School North had heard about Ritalin abuse in the community for almost three years, Principal Philip Zarob said. But they did not know of abuse within the school until a teacher spotted two students passing something in a restroom last month. Since then, 15 students have been suspended.
A Common Case
The case is not uncommon, according to the DEA. The agency cited a 1997 Indiana University survey of 44,232 students that included a question about the non-medical use of Ritalin. Nearly 7 percent of high school students surveyed reported using Ritalin recreationally at least once in the previous year, and 2.5 percent reported using it monthly or more often.
The DEA also counted nearly 2,000 cases of methylphenidate theft from January 1990 to May 1995 " ranking the drug among the top 10 controlled pharmaceuticals most frequently reported stolen.
In addition, emergency room admissions studied by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that in 1995 and 1996, patients ages 10 to 14 were just as likely to mention methylphenidate as cocaine in a drug-related emergency room episode.
Nearly 75 percent said they had been using the drug for psychic effects or recreation.
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., the maker of Ritalin, said in a statement that millions of ADHD patients have been treated safely using the drug.
How Ritalin Is Abused
Ritalin is a stimulant routinely given to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Used recreationally, the drug can give a sense of euphoria, particularly when it enters the bloodstream rapidly.
Some users dissolve the drug in water, "cook it and then inject it. Others grind the pills and inhale the powder. Suburban and white abusers are more likely to snort Ritalin, says Ritalin abuse report author Dr. William Bailey, of Indiana University in Bloomington.
It is most commonly used to offset the depressant effects of alcohol so users can stay out late and drink more, says Dr. Eric Heiligenstein, a psychiatrist with the University of Wisconsin Health Services in Madison.
Besides getting high, kids also use Ritalin as a study aid. "It seems to be a phenomenon that developed in the East Coast prep schools, where using Ritalin as a study aid to stay awake was part of the school culture, Heiligenstein says. "They took their Ritalin habit with them when they went to college.
Part of the allure of the drug for college and younger children is its availability. Prescriptions are written for children as young as 1 and school nurses routinely dispense the medication to grade-schoolers.
The effects of the drug last a few hours when taken orally. But even when taken according to the prescription, there is a risk of developing a dependence and a tolerance to the drug, Bailey says.
High doses lead to the same symptoms as other stimulant abuse, such as loss of appetite, tremors and muscle twitching, fevers, convulsions and headaches, paranoia, hallucinations and delusions, a sensation of bugs or worms crawling under the skin and an irregular heartbeat that can lead to death.
Death due to Ritalin abuse is uncommon. Still, a little is enough to kill you, says William Massello III, an assistant chief medical examiner in Roanoke, Va., who recently examined a teenager who died because the drug jolted his heart out of rhythm.


This Site Served by TheHostPros