26 April 2007
A New South Wales judge has slammed doctors for creating a generation of Ritalin kids now committing violent crimes and coming before the courts.
Judge Paul Conlon said attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was the most over-diagnosed condition in the community, with “naughty kids whacked” on to drugs like the powerful stimulant Ritalin.
Last year there were more than 264,000 prescriptions for Ritalin issued in Australia – compared to just 11,114 prescriptions written in 1992.
Judge Conlon said he was worried because the effect on the mental health of children who were given powerful drugs they didn’t need was unknown.
“I have huge concerns. The tide of cases is amazing,” said Judge Conlon, a former Crown prosecutor and now judge in the NSW District Court.
“I am starting to lose count of (the number of) offenders coming before the courts who were diagnosed at a very young age with ADHD for which they were ‘medicated’.”
With Australia’s ADHD rates among the highest in the world and 32,000 NSW school children now on medication for it, the judge’s comments will renew controversy about the use of Ritalin.
Judge Conlon spoke to The Daily Telegraph after jailing for 15 months for assault and an act of indecency a 20-year-old man who was prescribed Ritalin at the age of six.
A report by consultant psychiatrist Dr Yolande Lucire tendered to the court said the man showed characteristics of borderline personality disorder when he was taken off the drug at the age of 16 by Juvenile Justice officers.
Dr Lucire told the court: “We know (Ritalin) causes brain injury and permanent personality change.” The man had also become addicted to drugs including methamphetamine.
Judge Conlon said another offender appearing before him had said he felt suicidal on ADHD medication and those feelings only subsided when he stopped taking it.
Another told the judge the “fog” lifted when he quit the medication. Yet another said he had been taking Ritalin for years and felt depressed but when he came off it “he felt on top of the world and that his life was back on track”.
Judge Conlon said he was also seeing signs that children prescribed psycho-stimulant drugs like Ritalin went on to develop addiction to drugs like methamphetamines.
“My own research indicates that ADHD is perhaps the most over-diagnosed condition in today’s society,” he said.
He urged health professionals whom he knew had concerns to become more vocal.
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