An expert panel from the National Institutes of Health in America has called for a urgent review of the use of Ritalin (methylphenidate hydrochloride) in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The panel also called for clarification on the diagnosis of ADHD.
Although ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in childhood, the panel found no consistency in the treatment, diagnosis or follow up of children with the disorder.
In particular, the panel focused on the efficacy, as well as the long term effects, of Ritalin. Studies into the long term treatment of ADHD, usually with a combination of Ritalin and amphetamines, are thin on the ground due to poor follow up. In the short term, what is known is that current treatment regimes, whether they be with drugs or behavioural therapy, do not appear to improve academic achievement or long term outcomes, thus throwing into question the current high use of Ritalin.
While America remains undecided about the use of Ritalin, parents in Israel have expressed their concern about the use of the drug. There is currently a private members bill being introduced into the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, which would regulate the use of Ritalin in the treatment of ADHD. The Israel Medical Association and the country's health ministry are both opposed to the bill. Nevertheless, it represents a valid attempt to stop incorrect diagnosis of ADHD and the widespread, unnecessary taking of Ritalin by Israeli children.
A study into children's eating habits in America may enlighten us further as the causes of poor physical and mental health in childhood. Researchers found that children's major sources of nutrients were breakfast cereals and fruit juices (Pediatrics, 1998; 102: 913-23). Major sources of energy, fat and protein were milk, yeasted bread, cakes, biscuits, quick bread and doughnuts, as well as beef and cheese. High consumption of these foods compromised the intake of more nutritious foods.