But in a Durham courtroom Tuesday, a 15-year-old boy pleaded guilty to three felony charges of distributing Ritalin to his classmates.
According to juvenile prosecutor Marsha Morey, he will likely receive probation, drug treatment and counseling, although he could face jail time. His name is being withheld because of his age.
Sentencing will be March 12, pending the outcome of a home study conducted by juvenile services.
Ritalin is a stimulant that helps release chemicals in the brain. In instances of children with attention deficit disorder, it helps them concentrate better and work more efficiently. Doctors say, however, that when Ritalin is taken by someone who doesn't need it, it produces a high.
"It's probably a feeling of intense concentration," said Dr. Michael Smith, a pediatrician. "They might get flushed. It might be how someone feels after they have had several cups of coffee -- just revved up, I guess, is the way you might feel."
Ritalin abuse also can cause insomnia, depression, stomach aches and -- if taken in extremely large amounts -- can become addictive.
Doctors say, however, that it is usually not deadly unless a child takes several weeks' worth of medication at one time.
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