The number of prescriptions for Ritalin and similar drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) rose by 56 per cent in England between 2007 and 2012, figures have revealed.
The Care Quality Commission, which produced the figures, believes that the rise reflects an increased diagnosis of ADHD, but is concerned about the possibility that drugs are being misused to boost brain function.
In the US, the Drug Enforcement Administration has reported increasing use of drugs to treat ADHD, but has warned of pills being crushed and snorted by teenagers to get high.
It is thought that ADHD affects up to 9 per cent of school-age children in the UK. The Royal College of Psychiatrists says that there are practical ways in which parents and teachers can help children to cope with the condition, but that medication can play an important role in managing moderate to severe cases.
Methylphenidate, the active ingredient in Ritalin, is a stimulant that helps to control the symptoms. About one in three children can grow out of their condition but some will have major problems as adults.
IN THE US
Percentage of children aged 3-17 who have been diagnosed with ADHD
Data from 2011. Source: www.cdc.govnchsfastatsadhd.htm
IN THE US
29% of parents believe that prescription stimulants such as Ritalin can improve a teenager's academic performance, even if the child does not have ADHD
13% of teenagers have misused prescription stimulants (Ritalin or Adderall) at least once in their lifetime
26% of teenagers believe that prescription drugs can be used as a study aid
Source: 2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study: key findings, The Partnership at Drugfree.org. bit.lyPATSfindings.