Australia avoids ADHD medication 'frenzy'

Australia has escaped an ADHD frenzy that appears to be sweeping the United States, according to a leading paediatrician.

Nearly one in five teenagers in the US and 11 per cent of schoolchildren overall have received a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), US government data shows.

The figures show a 41 per cent rise in diagnoses in the past decade. Two thirds of those diagnosed are prescribed stimulants such as Ritalin, the New York Times reports.

Australia has a more conservative approach, with 3-5 per cent of children diagnosed.

Overall, one in 100 boys and one in 200 girls is on a stimulant program.

"That is vastly different to the US," said Dr Daryl Efron, a consultant paediatrician at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

"We have data that shows there is not overprescribing in Australia."

One of the differences is that direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs in the US is not permitted in Australia.

This advertising can lead to US parents putting pressure on doctors, Dr Efron said.

Also, in Australia, stimulants can be prescribed to children only by a paediatrician or child psychiatrist, and only after a GP referral.

Dr Efron said a paediatrician will prescribe medications only if a child is significantly functionally impaired at home and at school.

Professor Jon Jureidini, an Adelaide child psychiatrist, agrees the rate of diagnosis is more conservative than in the US, but he's "very concerned about the level of prescribing". AAP

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