As Narcotics Trade Expands, So Too Should Crackdown Line Has Blurred between Drug Peddling and Ethical Distribution

By Richard C. Hottelet. Richard C. Hottelet, a. longtime correspondent .. | The Christian Science Monitor, April 10, 1996 | Go to article overview

As Narcotics Trade Expands, So Too Should Crackdown Line Has Blurred between Drug Peddling and Ethical Distribution


Richard C. Hottelet. Richard C. Hottelet, a. longtime correspondent .., The Christian Science Monitor


THE narcotics trade is by far the most lucrative business on earth. It amounts to several hundred billion dollars a year, which equals or exceeds the trade in oil and is perhaps 10 times as large as the sale of arms.

A report by the International Narcotics Control Board, a UN agency, highlights the compelling power of that money. It also points out what can happen when the sums involved outstrip the gross national product of most countries. More than a trillion dollars a day whirl around the world's money markets beyond the control of governments.

The narcotics traffic is no longer simply one of criminals supplying addicts; it has permeated society. Varied chemical substances, so-called designer drugs, are made in small laboratories. More ominously, the distinction between dope peddling and ethical distribution has blurred. Take Ritalin, a central-nervous system stimulant used to treat attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity in children. Those who prescribe it say it can have a beneficial effect, but it is a potentially dangerous and addictive chemical compound tightly regulated by state and federal authorities. The Control Board finds that worldwide use, some 90 percent of it in the US, has increased threefold in the past five years. At present, 3 to 5 percent of all US schoolchildren are being given Ritalin. Physicians and pharmacists say it is overprescribed, often as a matter of convenience in dealing with difficult children. Ritalin is something of a mystery; even its manufacturer says "the mode of action in man is not completely understood," adding that the specific causes of the symptoms it is meant to treat are unknown. The law prohibits advertising Ritalin to the general public, but the Control Board says it "is being actively promoted by an influential 'parent association' that has received significant financial contributions from the leading manufacturer of this preparation in the United States." The report says Ritalin is abused mainly by teens who buy or steal it from children. Tablets reportedly sell for between $3 and $15 each. …

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