A psychiatric watchdog has criticised the decision to spend more than £1m on ADHD drugs in Lancashire.
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), an international body co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and the psychiatrist and academic Dr Thomas Szasz, submitted a Freedom of Information request to NHS bosses.
Figures revealed that three primary care trusts (PCTs) covering the county dished out more than 24,000 packets of drugs prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder last year.
The now defunct PCTs responsible for prescribing the drugs were Central Lancashire PCT, which dispensed 6,348 packets, North Lancashire Teaching PCT, which dispensed 7,700 packets, and East Lancashire PCT, which dispensed 10,065 packets.
Central Lancashire PCT, which has now been replaced by GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) including Greater Preston CCG and Chorley and South Ribble CCG, spent nearly £350,000 on the medication.
Sceptics question the existence of ADHD as an illness. There is no recognised test for it and a diagnosis is made by a psychiatrist or paediatrician watching a child’s behaviour.
Controversy has surrounded the disorder, which is treated with psychiatric drugs such as Ritalin and Concerta.
In September 2010, Harry Hucknall, 10, from Cumbria, took his own life after being prescribed Ritalin and Prozac.
CCHR spokesman Brian Daniels said: “In real medicine, a patient can ask to see the results of a medical test or an exploratory examination.
“But in psychiatry, there are no tests and no results to confirm a so-called chemical imbalance of the brain.
“It is psychiatric crystal balling. It’s a case of make it up as you go along.
“There will be people who say the drugs work but all the drugs are doing is producing nullifying effects that are hailed as ‘demonstrably effective.’
“All that has happened is the person has been drugged, and is exhibiting the effects of a dangerous mind-altering foreign substance in his or her body. It’s brilliant marketing, but it’s not science.”
However, the new Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit said a thorough process was observed before such drugs were prescribed.
Julie Lonsdale, head of medicines performance at the unit, said: “In Lancashire the prescribing of ADHD medications are recommended to be initiated by a specialist consultant psychiatrist, paediatrician or other appropriately qualified healthcare professional with training and experience in ADHD.
“Prescribing will only be continued by a GP in primary care once the medication has been titrated and stabilised by the specialist and if the GP feels competent to continue prescribing.
“This will be under a shared care agreement which details the care plan for monitoring of the medication between the specialist and the GP.”