Use of drugs to treat ADHD comes under fire from Borders MP

John Lamont MP.
John Lamont MP.

The region’s health board has defended its rates of prescriptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medicines after they were shown to be higher than the national average.

It comes after Borders MP John Lamont criticised health chiefs for encouraging a culture where drugs are seen as the only treatment.

However, NHS Borders said drug therapy was just one part of a “treatment package” which included social, psychological, behavioural and educational interventions.

The prescription rates for ADHD by NHS Borders were published in a report by ISD Scotland this monith, which showed an increase nationwide.

It showed children in our region are 15 times more likely to be prescribed medication for ADHD compared to some other areas of Scotland.

NHS Borders prescribed more than 210,000 “defined daily doses” of medication, such as Ritalin, to under 19s last year. That’s twice the national average and higher than any other health board in Scotland.

Mr Lamont said: “It will concern parents to learn that the use of these drugs in the Borders is so much higher than the national average.

“I am concerned that this just encourages a culture where drugs are seen as the only treatment available by parents and young people.”

A NHS Borders spokeswoman said: “Our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service based at The Andrew Lang Unit is diagnosing and treating more children and young people with ADHD.

“As a consequence our prescription rates for these medications are above the national average.

“This is largely because we have a specialist multi-disciplinary neurodevelopment pathway in line with the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) guidance. Therefore we consider we perform well in this area picking up children and young people with ADHD and offering treatment at an early stage.

“National reviews of ADHD treatment across Scotland have previously identified Borders Health Board as providing one of the best services for children and young people with ADHD. The high referral, diagnosis and treatment rates are a result of good practice being employed. One aspect of this is the option of drug therapy for ADHD, which is very effective and has a large evidence base to support its use.

“We also encourage parents to attend evidence-based parenting groups and psychoeducation groups specifically on ADHD. Our treatment package can include social, psychological, behavioural and educational interventions or therapy as well as drug treatments.

“Our services work very hard with our patients and their families to ensure they get the best treatment possible. Children and young people referred to us receive a range of treatments and support for them and their families, and any child on medication is kept under regular review and medication will only continue if positive results are shown.

“Drug therapies are not seen as a solution in themselves, but as an important tool in helping these children to deal with their condition and give them the best start in life.”