An estimated six million American children are presently taking legally prescribed psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin, Luvox, and Prozac to treat sundry mental and emotional maladies. Approximately two million, or three to five percent of our school-age population, are ingesting Ritalin alone, to cope with an alleged malady currently called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which many credible medical authorities doubt even exists as a scientifically confirmed illness.

Reporter Patricia O'Meara, writing in the June 20th issue of Insight, scrutinizes evidence of a possible link between psychotropic medications and such violent incidents as the recent spate of highly publicized school shootings. A number of the perpetrators, though coming from widely varying economic and cultural environments, had been "labeled as suffering from a mental illness and were being treated with psychotropic drugs that for years have been known to cause serious adverse effects when given to children."

Regarding Ritalin, for example, O'Meara recalls that the World Health Organization concluded nearly three decades ago that it "was pharmacologically similar to cocaine in its pattern of abuse and cited Ritalin as a Schedule II drug -- the most addictive in medical usage." The Department of Justice subsequently listed Ritalin as a Schedule II controlled substance for "having a very high potential for abuse," placing it in the same category as "morphine, opium, cocaine, and the heroin substitute methadone."

While scientific evidence supporting the classification of ADHD as a mental illness is flimsy at best, there is, O'Meara concludes, "an abundance of evidence that stimulants such as Ritalin can produce symptoms such as mania, insomnia, hallucinations, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. And the DEA's list of potential adverse effects of Ritalin includes psychosis, depression, dizziness, insomnia, nervousness, irritability, and attacks of Tourette's or other tic syndromes." (3600 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002)