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Ritalin should be last resort: NICE

Children under five should not be given the controversial hyperactivitydrug Ritalin whenever possible, new health guidelines have said.

And parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) should be taught psychological techniques for changing thebehaviour of unruly children rather than turning straight to the drug,experts said.

Teachers trained in ADHD management were also urged to put their skills into practice in the classroom.

Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and ClinicalExcellence (NICE) and the National Collaborating Centre for MentalHealth advised health professionals that methylphenidate, better knownas the stimulant Ritalin, and other drugs should be reserved for severecases only after other options have failed.

Up to 3% of school-age children and young people are affected by the disorder in the UK.

Dr Tim Kendall, a consultant psychiatrist from Sheffield who is jointdirector of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health andhelped draw up the guidelines, said: "Quite commonly people tend torevert to offering methylphenidate or atomoxetene. When they do thatit's not always because there's a good balance of risk and benefits.Its because the child has got what appears to be ADHD and that's what'savailable.

"Its easier to prescribe a drug when other options like parent training programmes are not available."

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