Another, more recent article on Ritalin from the New York Times.



Drug is Another Part of School
Readin', Writin' and Ritalin


LIVING added



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“We have a lot of kids on heavy duty medication. I hope it slows down. I don't like the quick fix.”
— Florine LaPointe, school nurse




Ritalin has changed the role of school nurses
At Sea Road Elementary School in Kennbunk, Maine, Andy Bodwell, 11, takes his lunchtime dose of Ritalin from school nurse Florine LaPointe. More and more school nurses are handing out more and more prescription drugs (Robert Bukaty/AP Photo)

By Victoria Brett
The Associated Press
K E N N E B U N K,   Maine,   Oct. 27 — Like a small herd of buffalo, the five children charged into the office of school nurse Florine LaPointe, fussing and fidgeting, vying to be the center of attention.
     LaPointe, used to this wiggly bunch, calmly hands out cups of water and each child gulps down a pill, tosses the cups and rushes out to recess.
    The students at the Sea Road Elementary School don't come to LaPointe for Band-Aids, aspirin or a sick call home to mom. Every day at noon, they get their Ritalin.
    The scene is the same in schools across the country. Ritalin, prescribed to help children with attention and hyperactivity disorders, has turned many nurses into case managers.
    Melissa Cash, a nurse at the Academy at Robinson in Akron, Ohio, said she handed out medicine to only a handful of children when she started her job seven years ago. Now she has to make sure almost 35 students receive their prescription drugs daily, mostly for asthma inhalers and Ritalin.
Ritalin
About 1.5 million young people take Ritalin (Robert Bukaty/AP Photo)

    At Sea Road, 23 of the 450 students take Ritalin. Others take psychotropic drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft to control depression or obsessive compulsive disorders.
    "We have a lot of kids on heavy duty medication," LaPointe said. "I hope it slows down. I don't like the quick fix."
    Although critics have suggested that Ritalin is overprescribed for children, a study last December found that doctors use about 2½ times more Ritalin for hyperactive and inattentive children than in 1990—a much smaller increase than feared.
    The research, reported in the December issue of Pediatrics, said some 1.5 million young people ages 5 through 18, or 2.8 percent of the nation's school-age children, take the drug.
    The National Association of School Nurses, based in Scarborough, Maine, said the number is more like 3 million.
    "This really is a very common problem in American schools affecting a lot of children," said Doris Luckenbill, the association president. "Almost every teacher in the world has a child in his or her classroom with this problem."

A Mass of Medication
Ritalin is so commonly prescribed to school children that the association recently sent information packages about the drug to 11,000 members. It includes tips on how to recognize symptoms and how to store the drug.
    Whatever the numbers, school nurses say they are swamped by the increase in students' medication, forced to curtail or reschedule other programs such as vision and hearing screening or faculty flu shots.
    "Work is so intense. I have to prioritize constantly. I feel like a triage nurse," LaPointe said after a boy came in searching for his inhaler for asthma and two diabetic students checked their blood sugar.
    "The nurses are definitely the case managers," said Maureen Glendon, a nurse at the Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia. "The paperwork is very tedious and time consuming, but it is also very rewarding when students do achieve and do well."
    Glendon and LaPointe agree some kids need Ritalin, but they worry about giving medicine to children who may not need it.
    "When kids have issues, the quick fix is a pill. We want them to learn lifetime skills," LaPointe said. "We're giving them a message by medicating them. They know they can feel better with drugs."

Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright 1998 ABCNews and Starwave
Corporation. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten, or redistributed in any form.