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BBC Scotland's Morag Kinniburgh reports
"Some parents believe the side effects are so serious that it should be banned altogether"
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Janice Hill of the Overload Network
"We are calling for the first independent public inquiry into the guidelines"
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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Public inquiry call over drug
Ritalin prescriptions have increased in recent years
Parents of hyperactive children have called for a public inquiry into the use of controversial drug Ritalin, which has been re-endorsed by doctors.

Scottish GPs are being advised to continue using the drug in the treatment of children with behavioural problems.

But the guidelines, drawn up by senior doctors, have been criticised by parents who have taken their children off the medication because of its side effects.

They argue that Ritalin has the same make up as cocaine and should not be prescribed for children as young as 18 months.

The controversial drug is already used to treat thousands of Scottish children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Dr Chris Steer
Dr Chris Steer: "This drug works"
ADHD symptoms 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.

The new guidelines from the Scottish Inter-collegiate Guidelines Network (Sign) recommend that Scots doctors continue to prescribe it - after detailed evaluation of each child and full discussion with parents.

It is to be used alongside complementary therapies, and the whole treatment package will be carefully monitored.

Dr Chris Steer, from Sign, said the medicine does work well, but he admitted there was a small number of children for which Ritalin was not suitable.

But the guidelines have been described as a "public health scandal" by parents who have taken their children off Ritalin.

We are dumping toxic chemicals into children as young as 18 months

Janice Hill of the Overload Network
Janice Hill of the Overload Network, a support group for parents with hyperactive children, said only selective information was given to parents and to health professionals.

"How can parents give their full consent to medicating a child when there is a lack of disclosure and only selective information given to them," she said.

"Most of the parents do not know that Ritalin is an amphetamine and has the same pharmacology as cocaine."

She added: "We are dumping toxic chemicals into children as young as 18 months. Their brains and central nervous systems are still growing, and we do not what the long term effects are."

Janice Hill
Janice Hill: Overload Network
They argue the drug is a Class A amphetamine which can cause hallucinations, mood swings even severe aggression or attempted suicide.

However, campaigners and clinicians both agree more research is needed about children with behavioural problems.

Earlier this year the BBC uncovered evidence that Ritalin prescription had increased 10-fold in the last five years north of the Border.

In April, the Scottish Association for Mental Health called for a review of the drug's use.

Makers say Ritalin is not a cure for ADHD, but that it can safely alleviate symptoms allowing other interventions to be used.

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