January 2011

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Australia’s first forum of psychiatrists, psychologists, educators, academics, researchers, politicians and other professions concerned about the large and growing number of children diagnosed with ‘ADHD’ and treated with drugs is being convened in Brisbane (7-8 February) by the Youth Affairs Network of Queensland (YANQ).

Opinions as to the validity of ‘ADHD’ as a psychiatric disorder vary among the invited participants. Some consider that ‘ADHD’ is a real but rare condition that is mis-diagnosed and over-medicated; others consider ‘ADHD’ a fraud.

However, all participants agree that unnecessarily administering powerful psychotropic drugs to children is a violation of their rights and often results in serious short and long term harm.

Participants are also concerned that:

  1. The criteria used to diagnose ‘ADHD’ are all subjectively assessed behaviours and these behaviours, losing things, forgetting, fidgeting, butting in, disliking homework, and playing loudly etc are a ‘normal’ part of childhood.
  2. There is nothing ‘ADHD specific’ about the effects of drugs used to treat the ‘disorder’. Although responses vary, most people become temporarily more narrowly focussed and compliant on low dose amphetamines.
  3. Drugs do nothing in the long term to address the many and varied causes of ‘ADHD’ type behaviours’.
  4. On occasions drugs mask the symptoms of serious conditions (such as abuse or trauma).
  5. ‘ADHD’ drugs have well established significant short term risks including cardiovascular and psychiatric problems.
  6. ‘ADHD’ stimulants are amphetamines or amphetamine like drugs that are frequently diverted for illicit use.
  7. We know little about the long-term effects of ADHD drugs on growing brains. The limited data that exists indicates their long term use provides no long term benefit but may pose significant risks.

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The USA is the home of ADHD child drugging with at least 2.7 million children currently taking ADHD ‘medications’.[1] As American psychologist Dr Leonard Sax points out, given that many of the supposed benefits of medication for ADHD children relate to education, ‘you would expect American children to be racing ahead in their school work’; but as it is, ‘France, Germany, and Japan continue to maintain their traditional lead over the United States in tests of math and reading ability’.[2] Similarly, if ADHD drugs worked, measures of social functioning like juvenile crime rates would be lower in countries with high prescribing rates like the US. Clearly America’s ‘medicated’ children are not doing so well.

Australia should hardly be using America as the ‘model’ for enhancing the welfare of children. However, the reliance of Australian psychiatric practice on imported American Psychiatric Association (APA) diagnostic criteria, over which the Australian medical profession has no control, leaves Australian consumers, particularly children, vulnerable to the same forces that make America the home of indiscriminate psychiatric drugging.

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 by Guest Blogger Dr Nigel Williams (Email:drwilliams@iinet.net.au)

Dr Nigel Williams has recently completed his PhD which identifies drug free strategies that enable many children, who qualify for a diagnosis of AD/HD, to engage in activities they normally find boring and thus avoid.

This new research, which was supported by funding from Healthway, explored how parents, who had decided not to have their children medicated, parented their children. One of the surprising results was how some parents were able to help their child engage in an activity when they found it boring. In essence they were able to help their child change the way they interpreted the activity so that they found it interesting instead of boring. The child then had no difficulties in doing the activity…even activities like homework!

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