A popular drug used to control unruly children should be dumped in favour of training parents in psychological techniques to better cope with their offspring.
New guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) say methylphenidate, better known as the stimulant Ritalin, should be eschewed wherever possible and not given at all to the under-fives.
The controversial treatment has been widely used to calm down hyperactive children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Dr Tim Kendall, who is joint director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, and helped draw up the guidelines, said: “People tend to revert to offering methylphenidate or atomoxetene, not always because there’s a good balance of risk and benefits, but because the child has got what appears to be ADHD and that’s what’s available.
“Its easier to prescribe a drug when other options like parent training programmes are not available.”
Drugs remain a first option for children and young people with severe ADHD under the guidelines, but only as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes psychological and behavioural interventions. They should never be given to children under the age of five, the guidance says.
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