A reliance on prescription medication and over-prescribing has been blamed by medical experts for the alarming rise in young Danes on Ritalin.
New figures from the Danish Medicines Agency has revealed that in the past four years the rate of prescription for Ritalin, a psycho-stimulant drug used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has grown significantly. The Copenhagen Post reports that in 2008 there were some 10,000 children and young people receiving the medication, a sharp increase from the 2005 figure of just 3,284. While Ritalin is widely used to combat ADHD, the issue of the drug’s long-term negative effects are still the topic of heated debate, with both psychosis and dependence considered real fears.
There is also concern for the practice of prescribing the drug becoming more common. “It’s a debasing of completely normal children when we just stuff them with medicine,” says the head of Aarhus’s University Centre for Primary Research Niels Egelund. “Ritalin seems to be the only treatment being used these days, and the consensus is saying: just give the kids some medicine and everything should be fine. It’s really a sick trend,” he added.
Psychiatrists have expressed fears that Ritalin is seen as a simple cure-all for behavioural problems within young people and argue that misdiagnosis is common. Additionally, prescription medication should be a last resort for the treatment of child psychological trauma where many issues can be addressed without the need for medicine, they maintain.