Sunday Star Times 13/02/2011
Many of the children being given drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have been misdiagnosed, an expert believes. Psychologist and behavioural expert Frances Steinberg believes shoddy diagnostic processes are seeing kids labelled with ADHD when they are suffering from other problems such as foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). “Most people diagnosing the problem operate from an orientation of `if it moves around and daydreams, it must be ADHD’ rather than doing a careful exclusion of other factors that could be causing the inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity,” Steinberg told the Sunday Star-Times. “And if you’ve labelled the child incorrectly, no amount of medication could fix what is wrong because you would not be addressing the underlying problem behind the attention problem. If we get the diagnostic end of the process correct, the high levels of inappropriate medications will be automatically sorted out.”
Last weekend, the Sunday Star-Times revealed that record numbers of children are being medicated because of behavioural problems despite lingering concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the drugs they are taking. In the past year, more than 106,000 prescriptions were issued for methylphenidate – commonly sold under the brand names Ritalin and Rubifen – and typically used to treat children and young people with ADHD. Family First is now calling for changes to the prescribing rules so that at least two specialist doctors must be consulted before any child is given methylphenidate, which stunts growth.