Parents advised to avoid Ritalin
Parents with hyperactive children should no longer give them Ritalin, new health guidelines say.
Instead, parents should be taught psychological techniques for changing the behaviour of unruly youngsters diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The guidelines were issued by the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) and the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health.
The directive says parent training and education programmes should be offered as a first-line treatment for ADHD, both for pre-school and school age children.
The programmes show parents how to create a structured home environment, encourage attentiveness and concentration, and better manage misbehaviour.
Research has shown that they can be highly effective, helping children do better at school and lead more normal lives.
Teachers should also be involved in the management of school age children, says the guidance.
Common side effects associated with Ritalin include nervousness, insomnia and weight loss, and the drug may also cause an erratic or fast heart beat, nausea, dizziness and headaches.
Children with the disorder are always on the move, running, climbing or jumping, as if driven by a motor that cannot be switched off.
They tend to push into queues, blurt out answers to incomplete questions, butt into conversations, and act without thinking, which makes them accident prone.
At school they are easily distracted, forgetful, unfocused, and disorganised. They may also find it hard to keep friends and suffer from bullying.
Up to 3% of school-age children and young people are affected by the disorder in the UK, and it has recently been recognised that around 2% of adults also suffer from the problem.
Previously they were often wrongly labelled as having a personality disorder or some other psychological condition.
The causes of ADHD are unclear but thought to include both genetic and environmental influences.
Diet may be involved and a link with fizzy drinks has been suggested. Problems in the womb or birth trauma could also cause damage in the brain leading to ADHD.
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