- Researchers have discovered wide variations
in rules and enforcement procedures in schools that they say pose a potential
for abuse of Ritalin and other prescribed stimulant medication taken by
children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Cynthia Musser and colleagues at the
Marshfield (Wisc.) Clinic's Medical Research Foundation, surveyed 53 school
principals in rural areas and small towns in central Wisconsin, then anonymously
surveyed 73 schoolchildren in rural sections of central Wisconsin and northern
Michigan who had been prescribed methylphenidate (Ritalin) at least five
- They found that some schools store the
medications unlocked. Some students carry their medication with them. Sixteen
percent of the children said they had been asked to sell, give, or trade
their medication to others. Yet, both school principals and students said
they saw no problems of medication abuse. Study findings are published
in the June issue of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
- "The potential for abuse exists...with
16 percent (of the students) having been asked to either sell, give, or
trade their stimulant medication," the researchers write. "Although
the survey did not address whether the children had actually given, sold,
or traded their medication, it is possible that some of them did, given
the significance of peer pressure. The potential for unauthorized access
or theft also exists at all grade levels."
- Most schools, they report, keep medication
in a locked cabinet in a central location. Most students either carry their
own medication or store it in a school office, nurse's office, or principal's
- The researchers recommend that states
and schools adopt and enforce policies regarding the use and dispensing
of medication, and that school administrators, teachers, health care providers,
and affected families all be consulted to develop such policies.
- "It is incumbent on the physician
to educate parent and child regarding the appropriate use, as well as the
potential for abuse of these drugs," Musser and her colleagues write.
"Monitoring prescription usage, periodic follow-up..., and continuing
education of parents, teaching staff, and child should all be part of a
multimodal treatment plan for (ADHD)."
- Findings are limited because the students
completed their surveys at home and may have been influenced by parents.
The researchers also note that results from a largely rural population
might not be the same as for other geographic areas where diagnosis and
treatment approaches might differ.