Use of hyperactivity drugs soars
Ritalin is a mild stimulant used to treat ADHD
The use of drugs to treat hyperactivity in children has soared worldwide, say US researchers.
Between 1993 and 2003, prescriptions of ADHD medications, such as Ritalin, almost tripled.
Global spending on ADHD drugs increased nine-fold, with 83% occurring in the US, a study in Health Affairs reported.
But experts said although use of ADHD medications had increased as awareness of the disorder improved, they may still be under-used in the UK.
Use of psycho-stimulant drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in 5-19 year olds was examined in countries across the world.
Between 1993 and 2003 use of ADHD medications increased by 274%.
The US, Canada and Australia all had higher than expected use of the drugs.
Country-by-country analysis showed increases in other countries including France, Sweden, Korea and Japan.
In the UK, use of the drugs grew by 12.3% between 1999 and 2003 and expenditure grew by 30.8%.
Countries with traditionally low and moderate consumption of the drugs were showing moderate upswings, the researchers said.
Symptoms of ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
In 2000, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommended treatment for the most severely affected children.
They estimated there are around 400,000 under 16-year olds with ADHD in England and Wales.
Monthly prescriptions for Ritalin, the standard treatment, increased from 4000 in 1994 to 359,000 in 2004.
Study leader, Professor Richard Scheffler, University of California, Berkeley, said: "ADHD could become the leading childhood disorder treated with medications across the globe.
He added that that one in 25 children and adolescents in the US is taking drugs for ADHD but the findings challenge the assumption that the disorder is a US phenomenon.
But Andrea Bilbow, chief executive of ADHD charity, ADDISS, said: "I think the rest of the world is a long way off catching up with the US.
"In the UK we are still under-diagnosing and under-prescribing."
She added that at the beginning of the study period in 1993 there was little knowledge of ADHD.
"The minute you raise awareness you're going to see an increase in diagnosis and treatment."
Dr Greg Richardson, consultant in child and adolescent psychiatry in York said there was a wide spectrum of differences in ADHD.
"If you're a bit inattentive and impulsive but can hold down a job you probably won't get a diagnosis.
"It's about where on that spectrum you can justify medication.
He added that in the UK neurodevelopmental differences were more likely to be seen as part of a spectrum of normal human behaviour than in the US.
"You need to find a balance with does the medication make the child's life easier or are you prescribing it to make life easier for the adults around them."
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"...Drug companies sell psychiatric drugs by promoting the "awareness" of so-called mental diseases. Thus, when looking at CHADD and other support-group organizations, the first thing to notice is not how the pharmaceutical drugs are being pushed, but rather how the disorder, "ADHD," is being sold.
Few parents realize what exactly they are buying into when they accept a diagnosis of "ADD" or "ADHD"; nor do they realizing that this is what CHADD-like organizations are asking them to do. What is obvious is that the labels of "ADD" and "ADHD" are applied to a diverse group of children who are viewed as having problems with attention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity (or are just showing poor academic performance). The label means much more, however, as is shown in casual statements like "my child has ADHD." Here the label goes from being a loose description to a hard explanation, suggesting that "ADHD" is a physical thing -- a problem existing within the child -- that is the cause of the behavioral and cognitive problems. This has the effect in turn of isolating the problem within the child -- it's a biological and thus medical problem -- setting the stage for the pharmaceutical solution.
To be sure, this is exactly what organizations like CHADD mean by "ADHD," arguing as they do that the problem is a physiological one that can be treated but not cured. Notice, however, that there are no medical tests, and there is no proof that there is anything biologically wrong with the child. All that exists are the so-called "symptoms," which are as likely to be symptoms caused by the world of the child as they are evidence of a problem existing with his or her brain. Indeed, how else can we explain, relative to earlier generations, why so many children are viewed today as being either impulsive and inattentive?
All this boils down to the following: If you're a parent wanting unconditional and uncritical support of your choice to give Ritalin or other drugs to your child, then a group like CHADD may be right for you. And if you live in the UK rather than in the US, all you need do is look for the "ADD" or "ADHD" label in the name of the organization, as, for example, in ADDERS, ADDISS, LADDERS, ADDCONTACT, or ADDNET.
Unlike UK organizations like Stimulants Are Not The Answer (www.santa.inuk.co), OVERLOAD or Successful Learning, these organizations embrace the "ADD" (or "ADHD") diagnosis.
In doing so they lock themselves within the assumption that "ADHD" is a thing located inside the body, like a disease - a medical disorder - rather than realizing and acknowledging that it is really a diagnosis pushed by the medical and pharmaceutical industry as a means to an unjust economic end, the selling of powerful stimulant drugs. As such these organizations are best viewed as part of the institutionalization of the medical model, whether they know it or not, grown out from root organizations like CHADD, the seeds of which were planted by the pharmaceutical industry.
If, on the other hand, you are someone who's concerned with the future of your child (or grandchild), knowing that a quick-fix drug solution only masks the problem, then "ADD" support groups may not be for you. Trust not in "ADD" labels and organizations but rather in the belief that all children have the potential to live well-adjusted lives. "