Controversial Drug 'Should Not Be Given To Young Children'

A controversial drug that is used to calm down hyperactive children should not be prescribed to those under the age of a five, a new report has advised.

The guidelines issued by the National institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) and the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health said drugs like Ritalin (methylphenidate) should be avoided.

Instead parents with children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should be given training to recognise and help children with the disorder. Teachers should also be involved in the management of school age children, the guidelines stated.

ADHD is a common behavioural disorder in children and young people estimated to affect up to 3% of school-age children in the UK, and about 2% of adults worldwide.

Most of the estimated 365,000 children in Britain who have ADHD receive no treatment at all.

The causes of the disorder are generally unclear, but are thought to include both genetic and environmental influences. Diet may be involved, with links to fizzy drinks a possible cause.

Dr Tim Kendall, a consultant psychiatrist from Sheffield and Joint Director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, helped draw up the guidelines.

He said: "There is an over-reliance on medicines. Quite commonly, people tend to revert to offering methylphenidate or atomoxetene. When they do that it's not always because there's a good balance of risk ad benefits.

"It's because the child has got what appears to be ADHD and that's what's available."

Dr Kendall added: "It's easier to prescribe a drug when other options like parent training programmes are not available."

A number of common side effects can occur when taking Ritalin, these include nervousness, insomnia, weight loss as well as an erratic heartbeat, nausea, headaches and dizziness.

They aim of the guidelines are to provide a blueprint of best practice for identifying and treating children with ADHD in England and Wales and combat excess use of drugs.


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