Media Release 21 May 2012
Family First NZ is alarmed at the number of children being prescribed drugs for hyperactivity and says that better diagnosis with second opinions and treatment of underlying problems should be the highest priority.
“The prescriptions for ADHD drugs have almost doubled in the past decade. But we may be just drugging kids up to mask the real issues of the effects of food additives, sleep deprivation, family breakdown and stress, lack of discipline, and under-stimulation for bright children,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“Doctors are under pressure for a quick fix when counselling, better diet, firm discipline and a decent sleep pattern would be better. We are aware of children being sent to doctors where the likelihood of a prognosis of ADHD is most likely. And teachers are putting pressure on pupils or their parents to seek the medication as funding for more expensive solutions are cut.”
“Research is showing that Ritalin use is only a ‘band aid’ and may actually be harmful in the long term. A Study published in American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Journal showed that children treated with Ritalin improved their behaviour in the short term but with no lasting effects,” says Mr McCoskrie.
A 2009 Australian report from the Therapeutic Goods Administration showed at least 30 children have had severe psychotic episodes and wanted to kill themselves. Serious reactions to ADHD drugs have doubled in three years, up to 827. But the report said that the true extent of the side effects was unknown, with many doctors and parents were believed to be under-reporting.
An influential 2007 US study from the University of Buffalo also suggested long-term use of the drugs could stunt children’s growth, and that the benefits of drugs had previously been exaggerated. And a Michigan State University study published in the Journal of Health Economics found that misdiagnosis can have long-lasting effects including headaches, dizziness, and high blood pressure. The NZ Ministry of Health expressed concerns in 2010 over links to heart, brain and psychiatric disorders.
“Some experts have said that rather than drugging children, perhaps we need to give parents a good dose of parenting. Maybe all we’re doing is drugging up naughty kids rather than dealing with the reasons why they’re naughty in the first place,” says Mr McCoskrie.
While acknowledging that there are genuine cases of ADHD requiring medication, Family First believes medication should be a last resort and that at least two doctors should be consulted before any child is prescribed stimulant drugs.