A powerful stimulant drug, methylphenidate hydrochloride, is being widely taken by British schoolchildren. At the last count, more than 650,000 young people, some very young indeed, were believed to be regular users.
This emerged last week from a Parliamentary question. The use of this potent pill has increased fourfold since it first became common in 1999. And its users are taking stronger and stronger doses, as they grow tolerant.
The drug has a long list of adverse effects including chest pain, hair loss, palpitations, stunted growth, insomnia, rapid heart rate, skin rashes, dizziness and anxiety. It has been linked to suicide. If those involved were teenagers in nightclubs, and they were buying it from the usual evil dealers, I expect there would be a big media fuss, and rightly so, especially about the three-year-old users.
But there isn’t, because the other name for methylphenidate hydro-chloride is Ritalin, and legions of parents, teachers, doctors and social workers have somehow been persuaded that this powerful mind- altering substance is actually good for children. You and I, meanwhile, are paying for it on the NHS.
By the time our sluggish nation realises that this is a horrifying national scandal, the damage will have been done.