UK: 'Playground drug dealers selling ritalin for 50p' - hype?

Jasbird jasbird#deletethis# at
Fri Jul 25 15:56:22 EST 2003

: A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said yesterday there was
: little evidence to support the charity's claims.
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Ritalin children 'sell drug at school'

Call for tighter controls 

A CAMPAIGNER for tighter controls on Ritalin, the prescription drug
given to hyperactive children, claims it is being sold in the
playgrounds of some schools.

Janice Hill, founder of parents' charity Overload Network
International, is to meet politicians to discuss how guidelines could
be improved.

She claims that Ritalin - a stimulant shown to have a similar effect
to cocaine - is being widely abused, with some youngsters swapping
medication with drug dealers for CDs and phone cards. The charity says
that, at some schools, pupils are selling Ritalin in the playground
for 50p a time.

According to Ms Hill, school secretaries and dinner ladies are also
handing out the class B amphetamine to children in need of an extra

She also claims that teenage girls have started using Ritalin, given
to children to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD),
as a diet pill.

Now, Ms Hill, who is calling on the government to make sure Ritalin
prescriptions are properly regulated, has been given the opportunity
to speak to the parliamentary group on drugs misuse.

Her charity has also submitted a petition to the parliament's public
petitions committee, due to be considered on September 3, in a bid to
secure reform.

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said yesterday there was little
evidence to support the charity's claims.

However, she said that, as there were still some local concerns,
executive officials were also going to offer to meet Ms Hill to
discuss them.

The executive had liaised with drug and education agencies, but they
had not been able to provide "any firm or convincing evidence" to
support the claim that Ritalin is being misused.

The use of Ritalin has increased sharply over the past five years.
Figures from the Department of Health in England show doctors
dispensed 254,000 prescriptions of it last year compared to the 2000
given annually in the early 1990s. Ms Hill said that, while the
government was monitoring the use of drugs like ecstasy, cannabis and
heroin, it paid little attention to levels of stimulant abuse.

She said the charity's figures were based on information from the
28,000 calls over the past 18 months from parents, teenagers,
teachers, psychologists and psychiatrists.

"The sad fact is that the Scottish Executive relies heavily on
information on Ritalin from scientists with a vested interest or from
big pharmaceutical companies," she said. "They do not look for
independent research.

"We are not saying there is a Ritalin epidemic, but there are small
pockets throughout the UK, and the government should be highlighting
this and tightening legislation."

Ms Hill said abuse in schools across the UK was widespread. She
believes the drug is being used as a quick fix for more deep-seated
psychological problems. The charity has also lobbied the government to
provide parents with more information on ritalin and ensure that
prescriptions are properly regulated.

"The Scottish Executive has arranged a meeting with the parliament's
group on drugs misuse so we can out our heads together and try and
tighten up the guidelines," she said.
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