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Concerns over treating kids with Ritalin

Published: 10:05AM Monday June 14, 2010 Source: ONE News

With 5% of New Zealand children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there are new concerns over whether or not the drug Ritalin is still the best method of treatment.

Child psychiatrist Dr Sabina Dosani told TV ONE's Breakfast programme that Ritalin is just one part of the treatment process for children suffering from ADHD and it is important for people to recognise that these children are different and are not simply just "naughty" kids.

Dosani says the number of children suffering from ADHD is not increasing as many often think, but it is becoming easier to recognise and diagnose.

She says it was a previously unknown condition and these children were probably the naughty ones at the back of the class or the ones that didn't achieve.

Dosani says people need to move on from the belief that ADHD children are just naughty kids.

"We understand now that the front part of their brains, the frontal lobes, have different levels of some of the chemical messages, particularly ones called dopamine and noradrenalin and those are the chemicals that are responsible in all of us for being responsible to focus and concentrate and think things through," she says.

One of the things that Ritalin does is to increase the amounts of the two neurotransmitters, dopamine and noradrenalin, to help children be better able to focus.

She says it is important to stress that Ritalin is just one part of the treatment process, but research shows that four out of five children do get better taking the drug.

"It's part of a package of treatments. There needs to be interventions in school, at home, and there needs to be education of those who are looking after these children so that they understand how their brains work differently," she says.

Many families don't want to try a medicated approach first, which she says is completely valid.

Families are often concerned over the side effects of the drug, such as stunted growth, but Dosani says every drug has both risks and benefits.