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Monday, May 24, 1999 Published at 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK

Drug to control children 'overused'

The causes of hyperactivity are thought to be biological

A disturbing aspect of drug use among the young is the deliberate prescribing of amphetamine-type drugs to them, to control their behaviour.

The number of supposedly hyperactive children being given a drug 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) said the use of the drug Ritalin for children with attention deficit disorder had gone up in more than 50 countries, including Britain, where it could soon reach levels comparable to that in the US. The report criticised overuse of the drug in America.

Treatment rates for hyperactivity in some American schools are as high as 30 to 40% of a class and children as young as one 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.

Drugs in Schools
The use of Ritalin in the UK has risen so sharply as it only became available on prescription in the early 90s.

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

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

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

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

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