More and more children in Switzerland are being prescribed the drug, Ritalin, for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
A new study by the federal health office in canton Neuchâtel has shown a seven-fold increase in prescription of the medication over a five-year period.
Between 1996 and 2000, the number of patients prescribed Ritalin rose from 76 to 433; while the yearly-prescribed dose of Ritalin went up from 224 grams to 1,769 grams.
In 2000, 80 per cent of those given the drug were aged between five and 14 - up from 53 per cent in 1996. Boys, aged between eight and 11, account for the largest proportion of patients.
The health office said it wants to investigate the subject more thoroughly but added that a combination of medication and behavioural treatment can help reduce ADHD symptoms.
Balance of chemicals
ADHD is a medical disorder associated with the balance of chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the brain, but the exact cause is not yet known.
People who have ADHD have difficulty paying attention, staying still and controlling their impulses. They often have difficulty functioning at home, school or work, and with relationships.
The Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Novartis, which manufactures Ritalin, says it can lessen hyperactivity and help patients to focus better.
In the United States, ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioural disorder. It is estimated that between four and 12 per cent of school-aged children are affected by ADHD.
About half of those who need medication to control their symptoms when they are children no longer need it when they are adults.
by Vincent Landon