SEDATIVE DRUG BAN FOR UNDER 5'S
Gaby Hinsliff, chief political correspondent
The use of Ritalin for pre-school children is to be banned, in effect, in Britain amid growing fears over the increasing use of drugs to treat hyperactivity.
The controversial calming drug treatment for disturbed and aggressive children has been regarded by many parents as a lifeline since it was first prescribed in Britain.
Its use has grown rapidly, with the number of prescriptions tripling in the 1990s. Now the National Health Service's 'best practice' watchdog is to issue guidelines advising caution on its use for very young children.
There are concerns that the use of the medication can mask emotional or other causes of troubled behaviour. Psychiatrists have warned that toddler tantrums, for example, may be confused with more serious disorders.
Ritalin, methylphenidate, was referred by Health Secretary Alan Milburn to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, the independent watchdog which rules on the appropriate use of drugs.
It recommends that Ritalin should not be given to under-fives. Although older children may continue to receive it, there will be clearer definitions of the conditions for which it can be beneficial as part of a specialist treatment programme.
A recent study found prescription of stimulants to American children under four, suffering from conditions including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), increased threefold between 1991 and 1995, with the trend still rising.
Gill Mead, of ADHD Support For Families, said parents of younger children would be 'disappointed' if they were refused medication. 'Most parents start coming to us when their children first enter social situations - nursery school. The touch-paper is ignited, the minute you put them into situations that trigger anxiety,' she said.
'Some parents are very anti-medication. I can recall a sad case of two headteachers with a son diagnosed with ADHD. They said,"We don't need medication and we don't need to pump our son full of drugs" - they came back to me and said they wished they had tried drug treatment because he is now up for GBH.'
Mead firmly believes that Ritalin works, 'not only for the child but for the parents, who are given enough of a breathing space from troubled behaviour to assist the family to maintain the love for that child'.
Ministers, manufacturers and patients have a few weeks to challenge the findings before they are officially released to doctors.
Dr.Breggin M.D., Psychiatrist - Information on Prozac, Ritalin, Etc.
Dr. Fred E. Baughman, Neurologist - Dispelling the Myth of ADD/ADHD
CCHR - Citizens' Commission On Human Righs
This article reposted by Greg Churilov
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