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Caution advised over using Ritalin for kids.

Byline: DR MIRIAM STOPPARD

Ritalin, the drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, is one I've always had my doubts about. I believe it's overused and has unpleasant side effects.

Also, Ritalin research is low grade and poorly executed. This would never convince me to treat a child with it.

But despite the lack of good research, more and more children are taking it.

NHS figures show that nearly one million ADHD prescriptions were handed out last year in England - a number that has more than doubled in 10 years.

Cochrane UK, topnotch scientists who inform policymakers and doctors, looked at 185 drug trials involving more than 12,000 UK, US and Canadian youngsters aged 13-18. Side effects, such as loss of appetite and sleeplessness, were very common.

The researchers said this didn't mean effects of are all common Ritalin and similar drugs aren't useful - the Cochrane findings suggest they do help children concentrate at school - but any benefits must be weighed against the risk of side effects.

And they said that we need better studies to help doctors do this.

Among the children who took Ritalin, about 526 in every 1,000 experienced unpleasant side effects, compared with 408 per 1,000 in the control group given a dummy pill or no medication. That's a 30% increased risk of side effects for the children taking Ritalin.

The difficulty is that doctors can't predict who might suffer side effects. "Despite more than 50 years of research, we have no knowledge on how to identify patients that may obtain more benefits than harm," said the researchers. More studies are needed to spot when side effects might occur.

Dr Morris Zwi, consultant child & adolescent psychiatrist, added: "Our expectations of this treatment are probably greater than they should be, and while our review shows some evidence of benefit, this finding was based on very low-quality evidence.

"What we still need are large, wellconducted trials in order to clarify the risks versus the benefits for this widely used treatment."

Dr Daniel Hawcutt, of the British Pharmacological Society, advised parents with concerns to consult their doctor.

Dr Tony Lloyd, from the charity ADHD Foundation, said drug treatment should be used only in addition to behavioural therapies, as recommended by NHS guidelines. "The fact of the matter is that in the UK, medication is the first line of treatment and pretty much the only line of treatment," he said. "That needs to change."

I'll say, for the sake of our children.

Side effects of Ritalin are all too common

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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 28, 2015
Words:427
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