Azara Blog: ADHD drugs allegedly do more harm than good in the long run

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Date published: 2007/11/12

The BBC says:

Treating children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with drugs is not effective in the long-term, research has shown.

A study obtained by the BBC's Panorama programme says drugs such as Ritalin and Concerta work no better than therapy after three years of treatment.

The findings by an influential US study also suggested long-term use of the drugs could stunt children's growth.

It said that the benefits of drugs had previously been exaggerated.

The Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD has been monitoring the treatment of 600 children across the US since the 1990s.

Most of the estimated 500,000 children in Britain with ADHD receive no treatment at all.

But of those that do, most - about 55,000 last year - are prescribed stimulants like Ritalin and Concerta.

The cost of these drugs to the NHS is about £28m.

In 1999, the American study concluded that after one year medication worked better than behavioural therapy for ADHD.

This finding influenced medical practice on both sides of the Atlantic, and prescription rates in the UK have since tripled.

But now after longer-term analysis, the report's co-author, Professor William Pelham of the University of Buffalo, said: "I think that we exaggerated the beneficial impact of medication in the first study.

"We had thought that children medicated longer would have better outcomes. That didn't happen to be the case.

"There's no indication that medication's better than nothing in the long run."

Prof Pelham said there were "no beneficial effects" of medication and the impact was seemingly negative instead.

"The children had a substantial decrease in their rate of growth so they weren't growing as much as other kids both in terms of their height and in terms of their weight," he said.

Is anybody seriously surprised by this? Pushing drugs on kids is all part of the medicalisation of every aspect of behaviour. Presumably we will now start getting lawsuits.

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