Children who have trouble paying attention, who cannot sit still or are impulsive, are said to be suffering from a condition called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.
It is a problem that is seemingly affecting a growing number of children. In the province of Alicante the use of methylphenidate to control the disorder has increased by a massive 46 per cent in the past five years, according to the College of Pharmacists in Alicante.
Last year alone, the Ministry of Health provided more than 54,000 prescriptions for drugs containing methylphenidate.
The large increase in diagnosis of the disorder is now causing conflicting opinions among professionals working in the field of mental health. The Spanish Association of Neuropsychiatry (AEN) believes that it’s due to over-diagnosis of children and is warning of the long-term effects of the use of the medicine.
However, child psychiatrists argue that the increase is due to a greater awareness of the condition, ensuring that the medication is effective and safe. Information provided to parents states that diagnosis of ADHD is made based on the child’s behaviour in three main areas: attention, movement and impulsivity. Critics argue that the testing is non-specific and in any of the three areas a child may manifest behaviours that could be considered problematic, but inevitably would be corrected as the child grows up.
The AEN claims that in the past children and adults exhibiting some of these behaviours were considered as normal but are now being considered as ADHD sufferers. The danger of over-diagnosing the condition is resulting in the problem being treated as with other learning disabilities, which may be masking other social problems, such as family or home difficulties, which do not provide stability, or even poor diet.
Child psychiatrists and pediatricians disagree, believing the increase is due to better diagnosis and awareness of the problem, warning of the negative effects if the problem is not treated in childhood. Some point to a study made in Madrid which highlighted that a significant number of the prison population were prisoners suffering from ADHD.