Child hyperactivity drug prescriptions rise

Prescriptions for drugs to treat hyperactive children in Scotland have increased by 7 per cent in a year, figures show.

Official statistics revealed that 75,768 items were dispensed to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 2009/10 - up 6.9 per cent from 70,861 the previous year.

Yesterday it also emerged that antidepressant prescribing had increased by 7.6 per cent last year despite a target, now dropped, to halt rising rates.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

One in ten Scots is now estimated to use drugs for depression every day.

Experts said drugs were useful for many people suffering mental health problems, but others questioned whether their use was always appropriate.

The latest figures, published by Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland, revealed that the cost of drugs used to treat ADHD increased 11.6 per cent between 2008/09 and 2009/10 from 3.12 million to 3.49m.

Rates of prescribing also varied widely across the country, with the largest user NHS Fife with 252 items prescribed per 1,000 people aged five to 14 compared to the Scottish average of 135.

NHS Fife said it had dedicated ADHD services and accepted referrals from outside the region. It also pointed to guidance emphasising an under-diagnosis of ADHD.

Sue Palmer, education expert and author of Toxic Childhood, said drugs should be a "last resort".

"What the drugs do is quieten the child down, but for the long-term they really aren't effective permanently," she said.

"For a long-term effect you need to make lifestyle changes and in schools teachers need to establish routine and boundaries and change behaviour so the child is nudged into the sort of behaviour which is useful to them."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sophie Dow, from charity Mindroom, said a rise in ADHD drugs may be due to better diagnosis of the condition.

"I think there is a place for medicine in the right context. It allows someone with severe hyperactivity problems to focus and calm down, so it still plays an important role but it has to be prescribed in the right context."

Public health minister Shona Robison said: "The prescribing of drugs is a clinical decision taken by doctors in discussion with their patients, and we should remember that many of these medications enable patients who might otherwise have been disabled by their mental health condition to live a normal life in the community."

ISD also found that the volume of prescribed medicines for depression increased by 7.6 per cent in a year, from 4.01 million items in 2008-9 to 4.31 million items in 2009-10. Ten years ago 2.77 million prescriptions were handed out.

ISD said it was estimated that 10.4 per cent of the Scottish population aged 15 and over made daily use of an antidepressant.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats and Tories said access to psychological therapies needed to increase to reduce reliance on drugs.