Ritalin for children is “quick fix” and should be reviewed, demand educational psychologists

Ritalin and other psychotropic medication for children are a “quick fix” and the government should urgently review their use, psychologists have urged.

The Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) fears there is insufficient data on the effects such drugs have on child development. Further research is urgently needed, it says.

The AEP’s demand is despite the fact that a European Medicines Agency (EMA) investigation into methylphenidate drugs, which include psychotropics Ritalin, Concerta, Equasym, Medikinet and Rubifen – had previously stated that the benefits of such drugs outweigh any negative effects for children diagnosed with ADHD and other conduct disorders..

Plus, UK doctors have been advised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence not to prescribe methylphenidate as a first-line treatment for children diagnosed with ADHD.

But the AEP – which represents UK educational psychologists – fears there will be an increase of methylphenidate prescribing because the number of official psychological disorders for children is set to increase.

The American Psychiatric Association is working on its 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSMV) in which additional psychological disorders for children are due to be added. These include Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Preschool Children, Temper Dysregulation Disorder with Dysphoria, Callous and Unemotional Specifier for Conduct Disorder, Non-Suicidal Self Injury, and Non-Suicidal Self Injury Not Otherwise Specified.

“These could lead to more young people being referred for treatment with these [psychotropic] medications,” said Kate Fallon, AEP’s general secretary.

She said: “There is a danger that we rely on the ‘quick fix’ for children with conditions such as ADHD, which frequently means the prescription of medication such as Ritalin instead of a number of other possible interventions.”

Medicine regulators in European member states had in 2007 requested EMA’s mediation because of concerns over cardiovascular and cerebrovascular effects of methylphenidate – such as heart rate and blood pressure increases and heart attack.

A review was carried out by the EMA’s committee for medicinal products for human use. It was based on reported side effects and all studies on methylphenidate since the fifties.

The committee also investigated any link between methylphenidate and psychiatric problems, reduced growth and sexual maturation.

An urgent restriction to methylphenidate prescribing was not needed, the committee concluded.

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