SCHOOLS FORCING CHILDREN TO TAKE DRUG, PARENTS SAY
Health fears ignored as Ritalin prescriptions soar
Jean West and Tracy McVeigh
Parents are being pressured into putting their children on Ritalin, a psychoactive drug that can cause severe side-effects, or face the children's expulsion from school.
An Observer investigation has also discovered that some children have been given the drug by school secretaries, dinner ladies and even some other pupils. An estimated 21,000 children in Britain are taking Ritalin; experts predict that more than one in seven children will be taking the drug by 2007.
Ritalin is prescribed for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is reputedly on the rise in the UK. Ritalin prescriptions rose from 3,500 in 1993 to 157,000 last year.
Coupled with health fears about possible side-effects, experts are worried that careless administration of the drug is leading to trafficking in the playground. Ritalin has already become a popular and cheap street drug with each pill selling for £1 or £2 each. It is snorted, dissolved and injected as a cheap alternative to cocaine. With a dosage of three to six tablets a day, it makes tempting pocket money for children.
Research by Professor Steve Baldwin, who was investigating the use of Ritalin in schools before he was killed in the Selby train crash in February, has now been released. He studied 100 children using Ritalin.
Baldwin had repeatedly warned of side effects from Ritalin, including cardiovascular problems, psychosis, hallucinations, violent and suicidal behaviour, and stunted growth.
He believed there would be probable long-term consequences on the central nervous systems of minors and wanted it banned in schools.
One of the children in the study, James Grayson, 11, from Manchester, left suicide notes for his parents, drank from puddles and 'barked like a dog' while on Ritalin.
There were also reports of destructive behaviour, self-mutilation, mood disturbance, depression, twitches, sleep loss and visual disturbance.
But for 14-year-old Nicholas, being humiliated when the school secretary would arrive to give him his daily Ritalin in front of his classmates was the least of his problems.
Diagnosed as having ADHD at eight, it was not until Nicholas reached secondary school that he was prescribed Ritalin without, his mother Beverley Croan says, any of the side-effects being explained to her.
'He got to his new school and they said, "Oh this child needs medication, can you get him some?" 'But on Ritalin his behaviour got worse,' she said. 'Jumping out of windows, running in front of traffic and he burnt his face badly one time. I did some research and discovered the drug was a powerful amphetamine, so I took him off it.' The school objected strongly and Nicholas was sent home. He has now been out of school for six months, receiving only three hours' teaching a week from Edinburgh education authority against the 25 hours recommended by the Department of Education. 'It is frankly blackmail,' said Croan. 'Drug your child and he can come to school.'
Last year an eight-year-old boy, Daniel Young - who did not have ADHD - was accidentally given the drug by a temporary teacher at his primary in Edinburgh.
And in Sussex, one special needs teacher told The Observer he had had three children collapse in his classroom after he had given them their Ritalin. 'It is a very frightening experience, and of course I had no idea what to do the first time.
'It turned out they had had too much for their morning dose and the lunchtime dose just overdosed them. 'I am now fighting to get a child off Ritalin that quite frankly I think has just disappeared into a shell since he went on it - how can I reach a child who looks as though they have just come back from a World War One battlefield - shellshocked.'
Janice Hill, who runs Overload Network International, a help group for ADHD-affected families, said: 'The situation is quite horrendous. Ritalin is being kept in school drawers and parents have no idea whether their child is being supervised taking the drug or just given it so they can wander off and hand it to friends.'
Novartis, the company which makes Ritalin, said: 'Ritalin is a mild central nervous system stimulant. Its safety and efficacy is one of the most widely researched areas in child behavioural disorders. Many studies, over the last 40 years, have shown that the use of Ritalin in treating ADHD has a very positive effect.'
But Baldwin was convinced that 'schools have become modern-day prisons with children drugged for purposes of social control'.
He said: 'I would like to see drug-free schools where amphetamines are not allowed on the premises, and children being offered psycho-social alternatives. I would love the police to get interested in this and to properly investigate it.'
Dr.Breggin M.D., Psychiatrist - Information on Prozac, Ritalin, Etc.
Dr. Fred E. Baughman, Neurologist - Dispelling the Myth of ADD/ADHD
CCHR - Citizens' Commission On Human Righs
This article reposted by Greg Churilov
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