Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 17:22 UK

Drug 'benefit' for ADHD children

Medication can improve the future prospects of children with ADHD, Dr Tamsin Ford says

Thousands more children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) would benefit from medication, a Devon research psychiatrist has said.

The neuro-biological disorder can cause children to become overactive, inattentive and badly behaved.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has said drugs such as Ritalin should be avoided.

But Dr Tamsin Ford from the Peninsula Medical School said children's futures could be limited without medication.

I'd fought for my son for five years before he got the help he needed
Debbie Morris, mother

"It can make the difference of staying in mainstream education or landing up in a special school, staying in your own family or foster family or landing up in a children's home," she told BBC News.

"It can be as life changing as that."

Dr Ford said parents who refuse to consider medication could be shutting down options for their children's future education and mental health.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) guidelines, which were issued last year, say parent training and education programmes should be offered as a first-line treatment for ADHD ahead of Ritalin (methylphenidate), which is an amphetamine-type stimulant.

But Plymouth mother Debbie Morris said it was Ritalin which eventually helped her son Ricky, now aged 20, where nutritional advice and parenting techniques had previously failed.

Treatment regime

"I'd fought for my son for five years before he got the help he needed," she said.

"I was told I didn't know how to bring boys up, because I had three daughters, and I was told he was spoiled."

Mrs Morris said despite her reluctance to give her 11-year-old son Ritalin, the difference in his behaviour when he was taken off it after a two-month trial was "incredible".

"The month he stopped it was just absolute hell and our lives were turned upside down," she said.

Though her son no longer takes Ritalin, Mrs Morris believes it did improve his behaviour.

In 2007, a study in the US reported medicating children with ADHD was not effective in the long term, and drugs such as Ritalin worked no better than therapy after three years.

In Devon last year there were 15,000 prescriptions for Ritalin, but Dr Ford believes thousands more could be helped with Ritalin used as part of a regime of treatment, which would also include education and nutrition.

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