* Up to one in 10 children in UK and U.S. have ADHD
* Study is first to ask kids about disorder and treatment
* Medicated ADHD sufferers say they make better choices
By Kate Kelland
LONDON, Oct 15 Children with attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who take stimulants such as
Ritalin tend to feel the drugs help them control their behaviour
and do not turn them into "robots" as many sceptics assume, a
study found on Monday.
The research, which for the first time asked children taking
ADHD drugs what they felt about their treatment and its effects,
found that many said medication helped them manage their
impulsivity and make better decisions.
"With medication, it's not that you're a different person.
You're still the same person, but you just act a little better,"
said Angie, an 11-year-old from the United States who took part
in the study and was quoted in a report about its findings.
The results are likely to further fuel the debate in the
United States and Europe about whether children with ADHD, some
as young as four years old, should be given stimulants.
ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders in the
United States, where an average 9 percent of children between
the ages of five and 17 are diagnosed with it each year. In
Britain experts estimate that between 5 and 10 percent of
children and adolescents have ADHD.
Symptoms of the disorder include difficulty staying focused,
hyperactivity and problems with controlling disruptive or
"ADHD is a very emotive subject which inspires passionate
debate," said Ilina Singh, a biomedical ethicist from King's
College London who led the research.
"Everyone seems to have an opinion about the condition, what
causes it, how to deal with children with ADHD, but the voices
of these children are rarely listened to."
"Who better to tell us what ADHD is like and how medication
affects them than the children themselves?"
Singh's study, which was funded by medical charity the
Wellcome Trust, involved interviewing children from 151 families
in Britain and the United States to examine some of the ethical
and societal issues surrounding ADHD - in particular the use of
drug treatments such as Ritalin.
"DRUGGED INTO ACQUIESCENCE"
Ritalin, known generically as methylphenidate, is sold by
the Swiss drugmaker Novartis and is widely used in
developed countries to help children with ADHD concentrate
better and control impulsivity.
Without effective treatment, children with ADHD can be
disruptive at school and fall behind, and adolescents may engage
in impulsive, risky behaviour.
Singh, who presented her findings in a report called
"Voices" at a briefing in London, pointed to disputes
surrounding prescribing stimulant drugs for children with ADHD.
Some critics argue the medications "turn children into
robots", she said, or say that ADHD sufferers are being "drugged
But according to the results of the study, such concerns are
largely unfounded, Singh said.
"The assumed ethical harms of stimulant medications were
largely not supported by this study," she said. "Children value
medication because it puts them into a space where they can make
good moral decisions."
Singh added that the study's findings were "in no way a
blanket endorsement of the use of stimulant-based medicines" for
ADHD, but stressed they also showed that assumptions about what
ADHD drugs did appeared to be "hurting children more than the
Singh said all the medicated children in the study were
taking either Novartis' Ritalin, or Concerta, a longer-acting
version of the same drug made by Johnson & Johnson.
Other common drugs used to treat ADHD include Shire's
Adderall and Vyvanse, and Eli Lilly's Strattera.