Ritalin - The Drug Of Choice
Among Some Chicago
Suburban Teens
CHICAGO (AFP) - Officials expressed concern Friday over an increase in illegal activity among suburban teens involving the drug Ritalin.
Police and school officials reported a rash of break-ins in school nurses' offices where the pills are being stored for use to treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) children.
A single dose of the drug used to treat hyperactive children lasts around four hours, so children must take a dose during the day, which is why the drug is kept in school nurses' offices.
The officials said the stolen drug was being traded illegally among teenagers who use it to get high much like cocaine.
"It's an uneven problem, far more (prevalent) in suburban districts than within the city," said A.J. Allen, a child psychologist at the University of Illinois here. "We're talking about less than one percent of prescriptions for Ritalin."
An estimated 4 million school-age children are taking methylphenidate, better known as Ritalin, to treat ADHD -- which prevents children, mostly boys, from concentrating -- and related behaviorial problems.
"We're doing a better job of identifying kids with ADHD and because of that there are more prescriptions for Ritalin being given, and consequently more thefts reported," Allen told AFP.
"My concern is that we don't throw the baby out with the bath water," he added. "Ritalin is a safe and effective drug when taken in regulated doses to treat ADHD."
Although it is addictive, Ritalin has minimal short and long-term side effects.
Allen said children with ADHD were generally at greater risk for substance abuse, including cocaine abuse, because they see it as a way to medicate themselves.
He urged parents and schools to ensure that Ritalin bottles are locked in a secure place and to closely monitor use of the drug by ADHD children.