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Isabel Fraser reports
"Makers say Ritalin is not a cure for ADHD, but it can safely alleviate symptons allowing other interventions to be used."
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Wednesday, 18 April, 2001, 19:21 GMT 20:21 UK
Review call over hyperactivity drug
Ritalin
Ritalin prescriptions have increased ten-fold in five years
Scotland's leading mental health charity is calling for a review of a controversial drug which is being prescribed to thousands of children with behavioural problems.

BBC Scotland has learned that prescriptions of the drug Ritalin have increased more than ten-fold in the past five years.

New guidance about the diagnosis and treatment of children who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) will be issued next month.

The symptoms of ADHD range from poor concentration and extreme hyperactivity to interrupting and intruding on other people and not being able to wait in queues.

Ritalin is a mild stimulant - an amphetamine - that works on the central nervous system to improve concentration.

nursery school
Opponents say other options must be considered
The drug is commonly used in the US. Treatment rates for hyperactivity in some American schools are as high as 30% to 40% of a class and children as young as 15 months have been known to have been given the drug.

But many in Scotland feel that it is wrong to go down the path followed by the US.

Beverley Croan, whose son Nicholas takes the drug, said much more must be done to diagnose and help children with behavioural problems, other than giving them strong medication.

She said: "He should have been screened for other things to see if there was anything causing him to be the way he was, instead of me being handed a questionnaire."

Ms Croan said that Nicholas was diagnosed by ticking off boxes on the questionnaire, by somebody who had only met him once for 15 minutes.


We would like to see the issue of the prescription of Ritalin looked at independently within Scotland in view of the fact there has been a huge increase.

Richard Norris of the Scottish Association for Mental Health
Makers say Ritalin is not a cure for ADHD, but it can safely alleviate symptoms allowing other interventions to be used.

Scotland's leading mental health charity wants Ritalin's use reviewed.

Richard Norris of the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) said: "We would like to see the issue of the prescription of Ritalin looked at independently within Scotland in view of the fact there has been a huge increase.

Cheaper to medicate

"And also in view of the fact there has been no research done on the long term side effects and the possibility of addiction.

"We just don't know what affect this might have on the growing brain."

Janice Hill of campaign group Overload said other treatment options must be considered and given adequate funding.

She said: "The big question is funding. It is much cheaper to medicate a child than to put all these packages in place."

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