Alarm at ADHD drug use

Waikato Times 21 May 2012
Prescriptions for drugs to treat hyperactivity have soared in a decade with more than 100,000 Kiwi kids now on medication. That’s a jump from around 60,000 being prescribed such drugs in 2001….The huge rise in numbers has one expert convinced the drug is being over prescribed and kids misdiagnosed because of it. It’s widely agreed that up to 5 per cent of school children are affected by ADHD, but the number of children prescribed the drug last year puts that number at around 12 per cent. That’s a concern to psychologist and behavioural expert Frances Steinberg, who believes shoddy, lazy diagnostic processes are resulting in children labelled with ADHD when they are suffering other problems such as foetal alcohol syndrome, sleep deprivation or anxiety. Dr Steinberg said diagnosing ADHD was a complex process, that required a lot of time to get right. “But it’s a lot easier to write a script and see what happens.” While the drugs might show some positive effect in the short term on those without ADHD, they wouldn’t long-term, leaving the child misdiagnosed and untreated for their real problems. “In the long run we’ll have an entire generation whose needs are not being met.” But developmental paediatrician Andrew Marshall disagreed, saying the increase was down to a better understanding of the condition and the drugs to treat it. While in an “ideal world” a paediatrician would have 10 hours to diagnose a child, that wasn’t realistic “… but you can get it right – most of the time – very efficiently and being efficient and safe is what doctors are good at”.