Nearly a million prescriptions for Ritalin and related drugs for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were dispensed last year – more than double the number of a decade ago.

The figures have prompted a damning indictment of the system from experts who claim that the running down of mental health services has led to children being misdiagnosed and inappropriately prescribed drugs.

There were 922,200 prescriptions last year for methylphenidate hydrochloride, the chemical name for Ritalin, and similar products. In 2010, 661,000 were dispensed compared with 359,100 in 2004. Guidelines from the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence suggest that the use of these drugs should only be a last resort.

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