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Opinion/Commentary

Controversial guidelines suggest medicating children under six for ADHD

Image: timnewman, iStock

New treatment recommendations for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is causing an uproar.

The 2012 Current Clinical Practice advises against using medication as a first resort for very young children.

The guidelines read:

Psychological, environmental and family interventions should, if possible, be trialled and evaluated before starting any medication treatment. If all of these other interventions have not been effective then stimulants might be considered.

Currently, the Therepeutic Goods Administration (TGA) does not recommend ADHD medication for children under six.

However, this could change. There is a push for medication to be the first port of call rather than last resort.

Financial interests

The Australian ADHD Professionals Association (AADPA) admitted on their website that members have financial interests in ADHD medications.

However, Professor and AADPA President, Mark Bellgrove insisted:

…we’re entirely confident that we have taken the necessary steps to minimise any impact of conflicts.

Professor Bellgrove claimed that all researchers were:

…exonerated and cleared of any misconduct regarding their declarations about links to pharma.

Professor Bellgrove may be right. All members of the AADPA may have followed all their laws and guidelines. But the question of whether children under six should be given ADHD medication still remains.

The heartbreaking effects of ADHD

ADHD can be a devastating condition for the sufferer and people closest to them. According to WebMD, untreated ADHD can have a wide range of effects in both children and adults. These can include:

  • Impulsivity can make school and work harder
  • Children may not be able to retain information and fall behind in class
  • Difficulty relating to others; may have issues with sharing, taking turns and reacting appropriately in certain situations
  • Difficulty making friends (and dating in adolescence)
  • May suffer low self – esteem
  • impulsivity may result in frequent injuries
  • Conflicts with parents
  • Risky behaviours such as: alcohol and drug abuse, smoking and risky sexual activity
  • Eating disorders (especially in girls)
  • Depression
  • Being involved in car accidents
  • Work issues such as: being on time and trouble completing tasks

ADHD is no joke. It’s clear that it needs to be taken seriously.

My take: ADHD should be treated. But get financial interests out of it

Let me say from the outset: ADHD is real. I don’t doubt that it is debilitating for many sufferers. However, the push from AADPA reinforces ideas that many critics of ADHD already have.

Psychiatry has been bastardised by the pharmaceutical industry. Real illnesses, like ADHD and depression are often given Band – Aid solutions, rather than lasting change.

It’s easy to see why.

In 2019- 2020, the Australian Government subsidised A$566million for mental health prescriptions. Under Medicare, Australians still pay a small amount for medication (approximately A$8 to A$60). So pharmaceutical companies are making bank.

I have not been able to find the amount the Australian Government or consumers spend on medications like Ritalin alone. That’s suss.

I’m not saying medication is never the answer for mental illnesses. But the pharmaceutical industry need to forget their financial interests and focus on helping people who are genuinely suffering. And offer real, long lasting solutions.

Do you think children under the age of six should be prescribed ADHD medications? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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By Sara Harnetty

I'm a student. Interested in current events, music and various issues.

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