SANTA - Stimulants Are Not The Answer - wants to counter the notion that attention deficithyperactivity disorder is a condition caused by a brain disorder for which a stimulant drug is the only solution.
Prescriptions for methylphenidate (Ritalin) have rocketed in the UK, from 3,500 in 1993 to 150,000 last year, an increase that has been criticised by the United Nations' drugs control board.
Psychologist Dr Oliver James, a supporter of the group, warned the use of Ritalin could reach US levels, where more than 2 million children take it.
The medical, nutritional and educational experts in SANTA believe that the disorder is a
psycho-social issue that should be treated without drugs, for instance by changing the child's diet or environment.
"As a short-term measure, Ritalin might be a useful tool but the danger at the moment is that it's seen as an answer," says Eileen Tracy, a study skills counsellor specialising in difficult children who is co-ordinator of the group.
SANTA aims to make balanced information available via the Internet (www.santa.inuk.com), to promote cooperation between specialists and to help set up support centres which offer ethical approaches to the treatment of ADHD.
"We want to restore balance to the debate so that parents have access to alternatives," Eileen Tracy said. "At the moment
the debate is led by the drug companies."