During the 1990s, the U.S experienced an enormous increase in the prescribing of Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs to treat U.S. schoolchildren, primarily boys, diagnosed with attention deficit disorders. The United Nations reported that that the U.S. was manufacturing and consuming 90 percent of the world’s supply of Ritalin, a powerful stimulant that’s been on Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act since 1971. Between 1991 and 1999, domestic sales of Ritalin increased 500 percent. Some critics believe a 1991 federal Department of Education decision to classify attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder (ADHD or ADD) as a learning disability for which schools could receive reimbursement under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) contributed to this questionable Ritalin boom.
A movement is rapidly spreading among state legislatures to prevent public-school personnel from pressuring parents to accept medication of their children with psychotropic drugs. Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Virginia have passed laws with that intent, and Arizona, Kentucky, Utah, and Vermont are among states currently considering such legislation.
The forthcoming congressional reauthorization of the IDEA presents an opportunity for policy-makers to encourage solutions to school disciplinary problems that do not entail the over-medication of students.
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