Thursday, January 16, 2003

Funding Drives Children's Drug Use

In a new Lexington Institute brief, Robert Holland and Don Soifer point out that:

In a study released this week examining data for almost 900,000 youths who were enrolled in several states’ HMO or Medicaid programs, Dr. Julie Magno Zito and her associates at the University of Maryland found a 200 percent to 300 percent increase in use of behavior-altering drugs between 1987 and 1996. By far the largest increases occurred after 1991 -- and therein may lie a valuable lesson for policymakers who are concerned about the widespread drugging of American kids.

It was in 1991 that federal funds first were made available to treat what is called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Before a child gets the psychiatric drug, he gets a label -- often a preliminary one of learning disabled from school authorities, and then ADHD or simply ADD from a physician. The prescription commonly given is Ritalin, a powerful stimulant that is supposed to help its users focus their mental energies.

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