- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

Too many children are being labeled for attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder and improperly placed on psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall to be “calmed down,” a House panel was told yesterday.Most child-health specialists agree that about 2 percent of schoolchildren “are so pervasively overactive or inattentive that they are very difficult for anyone to manage.” But up to 17 percent of schoolchidlren are being labeled for attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder, or ADHD, said Dr. William B. Carey, director of behavioral pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.”Why is 80 percent of the world’s methylphenidate being fed to American children?” Dr. Carey asked the House Education and the work force subcommittee on education reform.Congress has found that, in many cases, school officials are requiring parents to place their children on psychotropic medication as a condition for remaining in the classroom, said Rep. Michael N. Castle, Delaware Republican and subcommittee chairman.”However, these drugs have the potential for serious harm and abuse. They are listed on Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. Drugs are placed on Schedule II when the drug has a high potential for abuse or may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence,” Mr. Castle said.Psychotropic drugs are defined as having an altering effect on the mind, and include hallucinogens and tranquilizers.The House subcommittee is considering legislation to prohibit school personnel from requiring children to take such drugs. The prohibition was added last week to a House-passed bill to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, but supporters want the prohibition to apply to all federally funded school programs.”Parents … should never be forced to decide between getting their child into school and keeping their child off potentially harmful drugs,” Mr. Castle said. “School personnel should never presume to know the medication needs of a child. Only medical doctors have the ability to determine if a prescription for a psychotropic drug is physically appropriate for a child.”State Rep. Katherine Bryson, Utah Republican, told the panel she succeeded last year in pushing a prohibition against school-mandated drugs for hyperactive students through Utah’s legislature, but the bill was vetoed by the governor.”While Utah was once the Ritalin capital of America, the Schedule II drug seems to have dropped to a national average level now in our state,” she told the panel. She said other stimulants such as Adderall and the amphetamine Dexedrine “are deluging the child psychiatric market” in place of Ritalin.”In fact, Adderall now comprises 32 percent of the national stimulant market with 6.1 million prescriptions in 2000 and $248 million in sales,” she said.Stimulants and amphetamines have been found to have a calming effect on hyperactive patients.Lance Clawson, a Bethesda psychiatrist representing the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, was the lone witness to say Ritalin, Adderall and other psychotropic drugs are not overused on schoolchildren.”Schools should not make diagnoses or dictate treatment” for ADHD, but medication has proved effective, he said.”In terms of methylphenidate, there are literally hundreds of studies clearly demonstrating the effectiveness of this medication on many of the target symptoms of ADHD.”Dr. Clawson said it is estimated that 10 percent of boys and 2 percent of girls have ADHD. “There may be an overreliance on medication because there is an undersupply of mental health professionals” to make proper diagnoses on children with behavior problems, he told the panel.

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