Healthy Skepticism Library number: 6865
Publication type: journal article
BBC News 2006 Oct 21
Ralph Faggotter's Comments:
Children with behavioural difficulties at school have always existed, and were formerlly considered to be at one end of the normal behavioural spectrum of childhood behaviour. Now they have been redefined to have an illness, 'ADHD', which conveniently leads to the legitimization of the policy of giving them mind-altering drugs to control their behaviour. This enables the educational authorities and the parents to avoid confronting the root causes of the behaviour and the labour-intensive management which is required to help these kids to make their behaviour more socially acceptable in unnatural, constraining, environment of the school classroom.
The sad disgraceful process of drugging difficult children bears similarities to the equally abhorrent but widely accepted practice of drugging those elderly patients in nursing homes who sometimes engage in disruptive behaviour. Rather than provide the necessary extra staff and provide a safe environment to deal with these issues, the nursing homes proprietors cut costs by getting the doctors to drug the patients with sedatives and hence transfer the cost of management from themselves to the health system.
'40% of ADHD pupils' excluded
By Cordelia Rayner
Prescription rates for Ritalin have risen sharply over the past decade
Almost half of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have been excluded from education at some stage, according to a survey.
Up to 5% of children have ADHD, which can cause them to be disruptive.
A survey by an ADHD support group found that almost 40% of children with ADHD had been excluded, 11% permanently.
That is 10 times the figure of other children and some parents told the BBC they were told to give their children medication or keep them at home.
However, American scientists have raised concerns about the widespread use of ADHD medications.
The National Association of Head Teachers spokesperson, Jan Myles, said: "It's the system that fails the child but all too often the blame is laid at the door of the school.
"A lot of heads I'm talking to on a daily basis are exhausted with trying to implement different strategies that are not working."
The survey by the National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service found that almost 40% of children with ADHD had been "fixed term" excluded, and 11% had been permanently excluded.
One mother, Linda Sheppard, is taking her local authority to the European Court of Human Rights to gain her son the educational support she claims he needs.
The only way parents can get their children an education is through the courtroom Linda Sheppard
Linda removed her son from his school because she says they were unable to offer him adequate support in the classroom.
Continual exclusions from school trips and other activities caused his well-being to plummet and by the time he was seven he threatened suicide, she says.
For 18 months Linda struggled to find a school she felt could cope with her son's education needs.
"It's ridiculous - the only way parents can get their children an education is through the courtroom," says Linda, who claims that many exclusions are not recorded in official statistics and are classified as authorised absences by schools.
Other parents say they are coming under pressure to have their children on prescription drugs.
The BBC's Five Live Report spoke to one parent who said they were asked by their school to either put their child on medication or they would be excluded.
In the past 10 years the prescription rates for ADHD medications, which are based on the chemical methylphenidate, have risen sharply.
These are powerful medications that have serious risks Dr Steven Nissen
In 1994 there were just 4,000 prescriptions for methylphenidate, 10 years later that figure had gone up to 359,000 - a 90-fold increase.
However, the news comes at a time when leading American doctors have called for greater warnings on the labels of the ADHD medications.
The risks outlined by Dr Steven Nissen include tics, strokes, and in severe cases, sudden death.
"These drugs are not candy," says Dr Nissen, President of the American College of Cardiologists who was one of the key experts that moved to increase the warnings. "These are powerful medications that have serious risks."
In Britain though the drug advisory board, the MRHA, is not yet planning to release any new guidelines.
Manufacturers said the risks identified were small and only applied to people with pre-existing heart conditions.
One drugs company, Novartis, said it had "conducted a review of our global safety database in early 2005 which did not show any increased events of sudden deaths or strokes among methylphenidate users compared to the general population".
Five Live Report can be heard on Sunday 22 October at 1100 BST and 1930BST and will also be available at the Five Live Report website.