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Ritalin Abuse On the Rise in Young People

Ritalin has become the drug of choice to treat many of the six million American children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. One of the consequences of Ritalin's popularity has been a spike in its abuse. National Correspondent Jon Frankel reports.

Ritalin is commonly known on the street as "Rids" or "Pineapple". The Drug Enforcement Administration says the best way to avoid Ritalin abuse is the easiest--for parents to closely monitor dosages and to make sure the medication is secure if it is dispensed at school. The government investigation into the problem should be completed early next year.

Seventeen-year-old Carly Hardy-Fanta has been fighting drug addiction since she was 12. She's used marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and--RITALIN. "A lot of the people I hung out with who smoked weed also had prescriptions for Ritalin, and they would hand it out--give it to you for a dollar a pill if that much," says Carly.

Like Carly, a growing number of teens without prescriptions for Ritalin are using it to get high. Also known as Methylphenidate (Meth-el-PHEN-eh-date)--Ritalin treats patients with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD).

"For people who do not have that chemical imbalance, it speeds them up," says drug counselor Tom Green. "Ritalin is a stimulant drug, it's an emphedamine, and it speeds up the central nervous system. Stimulant is the key word."

A survey of 12th graders nationwide found one in 40 use Ritalin to get high. In Massachusetts, a survey found as many five in 40 students abuse it. Ritalin is even finding its way onto college campuses where students are using it to stay awake for big exams.

"Physicians feel comfortable in prescribing it in dosages of a month at a time," says Green. "When they start to do that, they lose track of how much they have actually prescribed. The parents lose track and before long most of it is hitting the street."

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Ritalin is on the top ten list of stolen prescription drugs. Now Congress has authorized an investigation to determine just how big the problem is.

"Methelphenidate and enphedamines are exactly like cocaine," says Terrance Woodward at the Drug Enforcement Administration. "Neither animals nor humans can tell the difference. They have the same exact effect on you as a person like cocaine does."

"It's not like smoking a joint and you have the smoke in your clothes or drinking a beer and you can smell it on your breath," says Carly. "You swallow the pill or put it up your nose and go home and your parents have no idea what you are doing."

Carly now speaks to teen groups about her experience with drug addiction. She hopes they learn from her mistakes. Carly's mother, Carol is doing the same, alerting parents to the danger of prescription drugs like Ritalin. "All of this stuff can be snorted," says Carol, Carly's mother. "It can be taken, it can be abused, and it can make them sick"

"I'm gonna del with this the rest of my life, but it gets easier every day, just a little easier," says Carly. "I just hope I can stay sober this time."

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