Health Bosses Under Fire Over ADHD Drugs

Health bosses in the Norfolk have come under fire for prescribing too many drugs to children with ADHD. An international psychiatric watchdog said Norfolk Primary Care Trust is putting children in “chemical straitjackets” and not offering alternative ways of dealing with the problem.

Nearly 13,000 prescriptions for ADHD – a range of behavioural problems associated with a poor attention span – were handed out in Norfolk last year at a total cost of £416,368. The Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) said children are being diagnosed with ADHD rather than health professionals finding out what is wrong with the child.

Brian Daniels, spokesman for CCHR, said some of the drugs can cause visual hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, psychotic behaviour, violence and aggression. He said: “There’s no evidence to show that ADHD exists. Children experience problems in life that may result in mental troubles. But to represent that these troubles are caused by chemical imbalances or incurable brain diseases that can only be alleviated with dangerous drugs is dishonest, harmful and often deadly.”

City doctors last year prescribed three times more drugs to children and adults with ADHD than medics in Cambridge and a third more than those in Ipswich. The number of prescriptions for ADHD in Yarmouth was also higher than elsewhere in the region.

Norwich North MP Ian Gibson said: “It’s a problem area and there’s no universal agreement about the best form of treatment, but there is evidence that drugs help in some cases.”

However, health bosses have defended the use of drugs, claiming prescriptions are usually written on monthly basis and therefore do not reflect the number of patients receiving medication.

Dr John Sampson, GP and chairman of the PCT Clinical Executive, said: “Patients are referred by a GP to a specialist – for example, a childhood psychiatrist – who would evaluate and diagnose and initially prescribe the drug, if appropriate. If a patient responds well to the treatment, the GP would be asked to continue with the prescribing. GPs do not prescribe without referring to a specialist.”

Nicola Brown, spokesman for the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust, said not all children with behavioural problems had ADHD. She said: “ADHD is a well established diagnosis and there is evidence that, for some children with this condition, medication is helpful. Our clinicians say many families and individuals in Norfolk find it helps them concentrate, work better at school, and enjoy more fulfilling relationships.

“The medication prescribed is licensed for treatment for children with a diagnosis of ADHD, and its use is supported by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence. Medication is never the only solution. We also work with the child, their parents, family and school to find ways of coping with the problems ADHD can bring.”