Monday, February 20, 2006
2,500 children on ADHD drugs
Wayne and Maddy Mitchell with Dale and Grant, who both take ADHD medication.
20 February 2006 10:19
The number of children being prescribed powerful anti-hyperactivity drugs in Norwich has risen by nearly 44 per cent in just two years.
Last year, city GPs issued 2,577 prescriptions for the medication to people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the vast majority of which are children.
Of the 2,577, 88 per cent were for the controversial amphetamine-based stimulant methylphenidate, the drug used in branded medication Ritalin, Concerta and Equasym.
This compares with more than 360,000 prescriptions of methylphenidate in total nationally and a staggering three million every month in the United States.
The drug works on the nervous system to improve concentration and studies have shown that can be useful in helping children with ADHD.
But experts fear parents are using the drugs as an easy option so they do not have to directly deal with their children's problems, while the drugs have also been linked this year to an increased risk of heart attacks.
Families themselves have mixed views on the drugs. Grant Bennett, aged eight, and his older brother Dale Bennett, 11, both have ADHD and are prescribed methylphenidates.
Their mother Maddy Mitchell, 34, said although she was aware of the side effects of the drugs she was not worried about her children taking them because of the careful regular monitoring undertaken by herself, the boys' GP and specialists at the hospital.
“I feel we are being pretty well looked after and it is really helping the children as well,” said the mother of four from Hartbee Road, off Fifers Lane, Hellesdon.
Ricky Thompson, 14, who also has ADHD, was prescribed Ritalin and then Concerta on and off for two years before being taken off all medication when he moved to a specialist school.
His mother, Helen Thompson, said she had always had concerns about the health risks of the medication and only agreed to let Ricky take them after persuasion from medical experts.
“I hated the idea of him being on mind altering drugs and am very relieved now that he is off them and is doing well,” said Mrs Thompson from Great Yarmouth. “I think it is too easy a solution and, if I am honest, I think the drugs are oversubscribed. Many children have behavioural problems but that is a part of growing up. There are alternative treatments than medication and I think these should always be tried first.”
In Norwich, the cost of all the anti-hyperactivity drugs prescribed by GPs has nearly doubled to more than £75,000 in two years.
The actual monthly cost of a prescription for methylphenidate to the NHS is around £18 to £35, depending on the brand.
Only last week US experts called for methylphenidate to carry the highest-level warning that it may increase the risk of death from heart attacks, after 51 children and adults taking the drug for ADHD had died there since 1999.
Some experts believe there are better alternatives to medication ranging from improving diets to psychotherapy.
Ian Small, head of prescriptions for Norwich Primary Care Trust, said the increasing use of the drugs was a reflection of the “medicalisation” of an everyday problem.
He said: “We all think are children are terrible at times and find them hyperactive and restless, but are they more out of control than they were 10 years ago?
“These drugs can definitely work well and give parents a life but in some cases they are simply making up for poor parenting.
“I would like to see the medication being used in conjunction with parenting classes to help parents understand how best to treat their children.
“Medication would be doubly effective if it went hand in hand with that.”
Head teachers and medical experts in Norwich have already raised concerns there are not enough resources in the county to cope with ADHD.
Dr Richard Reading, consultant paediatrician at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said although there had been some very serious reactions to the drugs, studies had found there to be few significant side effects.
He said: “Our view is that methylphenidate and different preparations are a reasonably safe given appropriate monitoring.
“We operate under clear guidance on how to monitor and naturally take that very seriously.”
But Dr Reading said psychotherapy was a very expensive way to tackle the problem.
He said: “Psychologists are far more expensive and I would argue that that money is better spent on people with disorders which cannot be dealt with by medicine.”
tAre you unhappy that your children have been given the drugs? Or have they changed your life for the better? Telephone Evening News reporter Hugh Bowring on (01603) 772447 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Methylphenidate is an amphetamine-based medication that is most commonly prescribed to treat children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Stimulant medication works by stimulating parts of the brain that are responsible for consciousness and control of attention and activity, increasing concentration ability and decreasing restlessness in children who are overactive, impulsive and easily distracted.
Not all children with ADHD are given medication. It is usually only given in severe cases when other interventions are not sufficient or are ineffective.
Researchers in the US claim to have established a link between the drug and increased risk of heart attack.
Medication is not a permanent cure but it is said to enable the child to learn, develop new skills and relate better to others for a short period while the effects of the medication last.
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.
Studies have suggested the condition may affect one in 20 children. Boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls.
Methylphenidate is the generic name for the drug, while the most well-known brand is Ritalin.
Studies have suggested the drug is an effective way of treating ADHD.
However, its critics say it can cause serious side effects in some children, leaving them robotic, lethargic, depressed, or withdrawn.
RETURN TO THE LORD YOUR GOD, FOR HE IS GRACIOUS
AND COMPASSIONATE, SLOW TO ANGER AND ABOUNDING
( JOEL 2:13 *NIV )
There are times when our faith runs thin and we may even find
ourselves walking far from God. When that happens Charles, it is
because we moved away from Him, not because He moved
away from us.
Now if that happens to you remember it is written; IF FROM
THERE YOU SEEK THE LORD YOUR GOD, YOU WILL FIND
HIM IF YOU LOOK FOR HIM WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND
WITH ALL YOUR SOUL. ( DEUTERONOMY 4:29 )
After all, our Heavenly Father is always there with open arms
to welcome us back, and His love for us can never be shaken.
For it is also written; THOUGH THE MOUNTAINS BE SHAKEN
AND THE HILLS REMOVED, YET MY UNFAILING LOVE FOR
YOU WILL NOT BE SHAKEN NOR MY COVENANT OF
PEACE BE REMOVED, SAYS THE LORD, WHO HAS
COMPASSION ON YOU. ( ISAIAH 54:10 )
So Charles, if you ever find yourself walking far from God
remember that your return trip back to Him starts with a prayer,
and with all of your love. Then soon you will again be saying "I
WALK BY FAITH NOT BY SIGHT," and feeling that closeness
to God once again! Amen. ( 2 CORINTHIANS 5:7 )
With My Love & Prayers,
your servant Allen
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