* 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 (Reuters) - 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 aggressive behaviour.

"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.


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 into acquiescence".

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 drugs".

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.

Also on HuffPost, from blogger Dr. Claire McCarthy:

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  • Anything prescribed to somebody else

    It can be really tempting, especially when you know (or someone tells you) that the medication did just the trick with that somebody else. But you can't know for sure that your child has the exact same thing -- or that the dose is right, or that it isn't going to interact with something else they are taking, or cause trouble in some other way. This is a bad corner to cut. Call your doctor instead.

  • Aspirin (unless your doctor prescribes it)

    Giving aspirin to kids in certain situations can cause a scary and possibly deadly condition called Reye's Syndrome. Sure, it's rare and lots of us got aspirin as kids (I can still remember the chalky orange taste). But why take the chance? Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead.

  • Old liquid antibiotics

    I see this all the time. There's some leftover from last month's ear infection, Junior is pulling his ear, why not? Well, here's why not. First of all, a doctor really needs to diagnose an infection, and starting an antibiotic before we have a chance to do that can really complicate things sometimes. Second, the stuff is only good for a couple of weeks after it's mixed up at the pharmacy.

  • Ipecac

    This is the stuff that makes kids vomit. We used to tell everyone to keep a bottle of it handy in case their kid ate something they shouldn't (like grownup medications or poisons). Turns out that it's not such a great idea for various reasons (like some of the stuff kids get into can do more damage if it's vomited, and if what they took makes kids really sleepy, the vomit could go into their lungs) so we changed our minds and told everyone to throw the stuff out. Keep all medications and poisons out of reach, and if your kid gets into something, call <a href="http://www.poison.org/prepared/ipecac.asp" target="_hplink">Poison Control</a> at 1-800-222-1222 (works anywhere in the US).

  • Expired medications

    While the stuff is probably good for a little while after the date on the bottle, it's hard to know when it's not good, so better safe than sorry. Get in the habit of going through your medicine cabinet on a regular basis and throwing out expired things -- it's such a drag to reach for the fever medicine in the middle of the night, only to find it's expired.

  • Cold medicines for kids under 6

    They can have <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2007-10-19/health/coldmed.fda_1_cold-medicines-liquid-medicines-pediatric-cough?_s=PM:HEALTH" target="_hplink">dangerous side effects</a>. They don't really work, anyway.