- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2001

Kristis doctor gave her a prescription for Ritalin. Kristis mother would put out a pill for her daughter in the morning. Many days, Kristi would give the dose away rather than take it.

"I just wouldn´t take it," says the 17-year-old Rockville girl, who asked her last name not be used. "My mom never checked."

Therein lies part of the chain of Ritalin abuse, says Sally Eller, a social worker and coordinator of the Phoenix II Alternative School in Gaithersburg.

"Parents must control that bottle," Ms. Eller says. "You cannot just hand it to kids. It is dangerous. You need to watch them swallow it."

If a student needs a second dose during the school day, investigate switching to a longer-acting formula, advises Dr. Lawrence Diller, a behavioral pediatrician and author of the book "Running on Ritalin."

Some students may need a second dose administered at school. Yet a lack in standardization of storage and distribution at school is contributing to children´s access to Ritalin, says Terry Woodworth, deputy director of the Drug Enforcement Administration´s Office of Diversion Control.

Mr. Woodworth says most schools do not have nurses handling the drugs. In fact, Ritalin often is kept in an unlocked desk, and untrained personnel such as school secretaries, teachers or parent aides often dispense the drug without checking to see if the student is ingesting it, he says.

"I do not think schools are doing a very good job," Mr. Woodworth says. "It is not really their fault. This task has been thrust upon them in the last eight to 10 years. This is putting a burden on schools at a time when there are not enough nurses in schools due to budget cuts. If quantities of Ritalin are on hand, officials have to monitor the stock, secure it and protect it."

The General Accounting Office is looking into how schools deal with distributing Ritalin to students, Mr. Woodworth says. By junior and senior high school, most students are carrying or administering their own medication, he says.

All local schools have a general policy for Ritalin at school. At the elementary and middle school level in Arlington, Montgomery and Fairfax counties, for instance, parents must fill out a medication authorization form and personally deliver the medication to school in its original bottle.

The Fairfax County student handbook states that medication is kept locked in an area accessible only by authorized personnel. The authorized person, usually a clinic aide, is trained in first aid but is not necessarily a nurse. At the high school level, Fairfax County students may carry their own medication to school provided they have filled out an authorization form, the handbook says.

In Prince George´s County, the policy is similar: Parents of middle and elementary school students must sign a permission form and deliver the medication to school. A nurse in the school is in charge of distributing prescription medications.

Matt Cohen, an attorney and past president of Chadd, the advocacy group for Children and Adults With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, agrees that some schools do a good job of keeping the Ritalin supply secure but others do not.

"In some places, it is a statewide rule," Mr. Cohen says. "In others, it is an individual rule. Chadd is eager to make sure when medication is involved, it is appropriately kept in a secure manner."

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