Running on Ritalin

Ritalin abuse is on the rise. Why are people without the disorder begging, borrowing and stealing to get it?

By Melissa Mertl, published on September 1, 2000 - last reviewed on August 18, 2005

Ritalin, a mild stimulant, was designed to treat attention
deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) -- so why are people without the
disorder begging, borrowing and stealing to get it?

A recent U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) report showed an
alarming trend in recreational Ritalin use. According to Department of
Justice Deputy Director Terrance Woodward, Ritalin prescriptions have
increased fivefold in the last decade, and data from school surveys,
poison control centers and emergency rooms indicate that the drug's abuse
has increased markedly since 1990. Some of the U.S.' 350 million daily
doses of prescribed Ritalin are shared in schools -- surveys indicate that
3% to 8% of high school seniors have used Ritalin without a

"Ritalin can be very helpful, but kids face pressure to share it,"
says Eileen Beal, author of Ritalin: Its Use and Abuse (Rosen, 1998). Her
research shows that college kids and teenagers are popping pills or
snorting the crushed-up powder at dance clubs and late-night study
sessions because it speeds up the heart rate and keeps one awake, but it
may cause jitters or paranoia. "But we don't see a lot of deaths -- much
less than with cocaine use," says Virginia medical examiner William
Massello, Ph.D.

Still, intravenously injecting a dissolved Ritalin solution poses
serious health risks: Tablet particles can clump and block blood vessels,
damaging the lungs and retina. So the DEA has declared that they will
continue to monitor its recreational use' and also teach doctors, parents
and school officials how to properly prescribe, use and store