ADHD drug given to toddlers

Reports in the UK suggest that almost 400,000 youngsters aged between 5 and 19 are being treated with Ritalin and similar drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, regardless of fears about the drugs' serious side-effects such as cardiovascular disorders, hallucinations and even suicidal thoughts.

The number of prescriptions for behavioural problems has risen by 156 per cent in the last six years and in the last five years the National Health Service (NHS) costs for stimulant drugs such as Ritalin has trebled despite concerns over the potential health risks.

Research suggests that thousands of children are needlessly being prescribed mind-altering powerful drugs for hyperactivity with some GPs prescribing Ritalin to children under a year old and in the last decade the number of school children prescribed anti-depressants such as Prozac has risen four times.

Those diagnosed with ADHD often display disruptive behaviour and have difficulty paying attention to specific tasks but official guidelines recommend drug treatment only for the most severely affected children.

But claims are being made that Ritalin and similar drugs are being prescribed to those with mild symptoms.

Diagnosing ADHD properly is a lengthy process and should involve accounts and reports from a range of sources such as schools as well as parents.

Critics say some GPs are prescribing the powerful drugs after brief consultations and this is a concern as at least nine deaths have been reported to the UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency since Ritalin became available in the early 1990s.

Opposition MPs say while there are undoubtedly many children in the UK with ADHD who will benefit from Ritalin, the increase of prescriptions raises questions as to whether it is being prescribed properly in each and every case.

They say cases have been reported which indicate that the NHS needs to review it's policy on prescribing such drugs and a review of the current guidelines is in order.

They suggest more research should be done into the effectiveness of non-drug treatment and natural remedies to treat ADHD.

The politicians used research compiled from global studies conducted over the past decade as there are no official records on the number of children prescribed Ritalin in Britain.

Their call follows a report by the University of California which shows that the use of ADHD drugs has tripled worldwide since 1993.

The ADHD charity Addiss has dismissed the research as "misleading" and claims the disorder is still "under-diagnosed and underprescribed".

In the U.S. almost 1 in 10 school-age boys is prescribed Ritalin or an equivalent and the drug is frequently recommended for toddlers.

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