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Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 15:04 GMT
'Hyperactive children should get drugs'
The number of children receiving Ritalin has increased
Controversial drugs such as Ritalin work better at treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than behavioural therapy, claims a major research project.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has been welcomed by some support groups helping parents whose children have been diagnosed.


It's time British doctors came out and said they have got it wrong

Gill Mead, ADD ADHD Family Support Group
But the use of Ritalin is still controversial among some parents, who are convinced that therapy, or even alternative treatments are more effective and less harmful.

Opponents of Ritalin claim that it can leave children unduly robotic, lethargic, depressed, or withdrawn.

ADHD is used to describe a wide variety of behavioural disorders, and children given the diagnosis may be suffering from anything from lack of attention span, to more serious problems such as Asperger's Syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, or hyperactivity.

The study looked at 579 children with ADHD, aged between seven and almost 10 years old.

'Significantly better'

For most of their symptoms, children given Ritalin showed "significantly greater improvement" than those given intensive behavioural treatment.

Even those given both Ritalin and behavioural therapy only fared slightly better than those given just drugs.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Eric Taylor, from the Institute of Psychiatry in London, said the research was a "landmark" in the treatment of ADHD.

He said: "Where there are doubts about the value of medication for aspects of child development other than reducing the 'nuisance value' of noisy behaviour to adults, they should be laid to rest."

Gill Mead, the President of the ADD ADHD Family Support Group, said that many UK doctors were still unwilling to prescribe Ritalin.

She said: "It's time British doctors came out and said they have got it wrong - it's sad to see the US so far ahead."

The prescribing rate for Ritalin in the US doubled between 1990 and 1995.

"Most parents who have been trying alternative therapies come back time and time again and say it didn't work.

"There are now 90,000 prescriptions for Ritalin annually in the UK, and this is going up every day."

Ritalin is a mild stimulant which acts on the body's central nervous system.

See also:

03 Feb 99 | Health
01 Sep 99 | Health
01 Dec 99 | Health
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