- More than one in five psychologists aware of children under five on drugs
- These include Ritalin to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- National Institute for Clinical Excellence states ‘drug treatment is not recommended for pre-school children with ADHD’
Children as young as two are being prescribed ‘chemical cosh’ drugs to curb hyperactivity – in defiance of official guidance.
More than one in five psychologists are aware of children under five on drugs such as Ritalin to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other behavioural conditions, according to a survey of health professionals.
Psychologists warned that overstretched health workers were increasingly going ‘straight to medication’ instead of offering behaviour therapy and parenting support.
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More than one in five psychologists are aware of children under five on drugs such as Ritalin to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other behavioural conditions
And they highlighted a growing ‘intolerance of difference’ which meant that children who struggled to fit in to certain environments were perceived to have ‘something wrong with them’.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which sets national standards for healthcare, states that ‘drug treatment is not recommended for pre-school children with ADHD’.
Ritalin – a brand name for methylphenidate – is also not licensed in the UK for use in children under six, since ‘safety and efficacy in this age group has not been established’.
Doctors are warned they must take full clinical responsibility if they choose to prescribe it.
The survey by the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychologists covered 136 educational psychologists in 70 local authorities across the UK.
Some 22 per cent of respondents reported being aware of pre-school children taking stimulant drugs contrary to NICE guidelines.
It also emerged that among school-age children ‘medication was felt to be the predominant form of treatment’ despite further NICE advice that psychological therapies should be tried before drugs.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which sets national standards for healthcare, says ‘drug treatment is not recommended for pre-school children with ADHD’. File photo
Vivian Hill, one of the study’s authors, said: ‘It is almost certainly to do with the fact that the whole of children’s mental health services is incredibly underfunded.’
Miss Hill, director of professional educational psychology training at the University College London Institute of Education, added: ‘I have certainly seen reference to children of two and three who have been prescribed medication.’ These were likely to be ‘severe’ cases, she added.
But she warned of potential risks to children’s health. ‘We have no idea about the long-term consequences of exposure to this medication,’ she said.
The Department of Health said: ‘Children’s mental health is a key priority, which is why we’ve formed a taskforce to look at how we can provide the best possible care, and have invested £54million in improving access to psychological treatments.’