Nearly 10000 children on Ritalin
edical experts believe that the sharp rise in young people taking Ritalin is due to the drug being over-prescribed
Doctors’ prescription of the psycho-stimulant drug Ritalin for children and young people has exploded over the past four years, according to figures from the Danish Medicines Agency.
Politiken newspaper reports that in 2005 there were 3284 children and adolescents receiving the medication. By 2008 that number had risen to almost 10,000.
Ritalin is commonly prescribed to children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD). But the possibility of negative long-term effects from the drug is still a hotly debated issue, and many medical experts are concerned over the rapidly growing number of young people being prescribed Ritalin.
‘It’s a debasing of completely normal children when we just stuff them with medicine,’ said Niels Egelund, head of the Center for Primary Research at the University of Aarhus.
‘Ritalin seems to be the only treatment being used these days, and the consensus is saying: just give the kids some medicine and everything should be fine. It’s really a sick trend,’ he said.
Among psychiatrists, there is considerable discussion over whether Ritalin is the right medicine for many children with behavioural problems. They argue that ADHD can often be misdiagnosed, and therefore a large number of children are prescribed Ritalin although they do not suffer from ADHD.
In addition, critics of Ritalin say that many young people have psychological problems that can be resolved without medication.
Anne Mette Dons, head of supervision and surveillance control for the Board of Health, is also concerned about the increasing number of Ritalin prescriptions. She acknowledged that many young people are not sufficiently tested or examined prior to receiving the drug.
‘There are too many doctors prescribing the medicine without first making a complete diagnosis,’ said Dons. ‘Children have to be fully examined by a child psychiatrist. Family doctors just don’t have the kind of knowledge to do that properly.’
Dons said that last month the Board of Health implemented a more thorough supervision of doctors prescribing Ritalin to young people. The doctors are now being required to document that the patient has first been diagnosed by a psychiatric specialist.