During 2004, the United States prescribed 29 million prescriptions for Ritalin (stimulant), Prozac (antidepressant) and other ADHD drugs, 23 million of these were for children as young as two years. In the UK no-one knows exactly how many children are taking Ritalin, but it is estimated that up to 3% children and 2% of adults are affected by ADHD in the UK.
The causes of ADHD are unclear, but thought to include both genetic and enviromental influences; links with fizzy drinks and diet have also been indicated.
The launch of new guidance for the NHS on ADHD warns that Ritalin and similar drugs can produce numerous undesirable side-effects including long term psychiatric and behavioural problems.
The guidelines say parent training and education programmes should be offered first. The programmes show parents how to create a structured home enviroment, encourage attentiveness and concentration, and better manage misbehaviour. Research shows they can be highly effective, helping children do better at school and lead more normal lives.
Teachers should also be involved
Labelling a child with a ‘psychiatric illness’ can have devastating affects on how they view themselves and others treat them. The child feels dis-empowered and is often told there is "nothing you can do about it". This robs him/her of responsibility.
A child should and can learn to be in control of their behaviour.