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Tuesday, February 23, 1999 Published at 08:55 GMT


Drug to control children's behaviour 'overused'

The causes of hyperactivity are thought to be biological

The number of hyperactive children being given a drug to control their behaviour has shot up at an alarming rate, according to a United Nations report.

Professor Hamid Ghodse of the INCB explains his concerns about the use of Ritalin in the UK
The annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says the use of the drug Ritalin for children with attention deficit disorder has gone up in more than 50 countries, including Britain, where it could soon reach levels comparable to that in the US.

The report criticises overuse of the drug in America.

Treatment rates for hyperactivity in some American schools are as high as 30 to 40 per cent of a class and children as young as one year old have been known to have been given the drug.

BBC Correspondent Karen Bowerman looks at how the use of Ritalin has affected one family
Critics of the drug are concerned that it turns children in the classroom into zombies.

Supporters say it is important for parents to control their child's behaviour if they are disruptive.

Drug abuse

The 70-page INCB report lists drug problems worldwide, and makes recommendations on strategies for fighting abuse in regions from Asia to Europe and Africa to the Americas.

[ image: Overprescription of the tablets in the US is criticised]
Overprescription of the tablets in the US is criticised
Ritalin is used to control the behaviour of hyperactive children. Its use in the UK has risen so sharply as it only became available on prescription in the early nineties.

The UN wants governments in the countries where use is increasing to monitor whether it is being overdiagnosed.

Professor Hamid Ghodse is president of the INCB.

Gillian Meade of the ADHD Family Support Group (UK): Many children need Ritalin to function normally
He says in the report that despite efforts on international drug control, many substances are being overprescribed - particularly to young people with behavioural and social problems.

He says they are taking drugs to conform with a generally desired body image, because of emotional stress, and to improve school performance.

However, they then find it difficult to refrain from abusing drugs at a later date, he adds.

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