Call for combined research into ADHD drug use

Call for combined research into ADHD drug use

THE number of children on stimulant medication for ADHD is again on the rise, with nearly 8000 two to 18-year-olds reported as taking such medications in 2015.

Murdoch University scholar Martin Whitely, who was also a teacher for six years before he was a Labor politician for 12 years until 2013, said it is was time for researchers to put aside bias and come together to contest one another’s research.

Dr Whitely said WA once had the highest ADHD medication use in the nation. Its uptake was again on the rise and he felt some doctors were quick to diagnose Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Dr Whitely will hold a seminar at Murdoch University on Thursday, February 23, to identify several potential research projects relating to ADHD and other mental health conditions. He has invited potential research partners to take part, including those with difference perspectives on ADHD.

He recently led research published in the Medical Journal of Australia that found the youngest children in WA primary school classes were about twice as likely as their oldest classmates to take ADHD medication.

It was the fifth large scale international study to suggest age-related immaturity was being misdiagnosed as ADHD.

Dr Whitely said children were being prescribed stimulants – amphetamines or amphetamine-like medications –- that temporarily narrowed focus and created a more compliant child in class but could create side effects ranging from loss of appetite and sleep disruption through to psychosis, suicidality and cardiovascular problems.

“Most research on ADHD is sponsored by drug manufacturing,” Dr Whitely said.

“I come from a perspective of thinking it’s (ADHD) not a valid psychological diagnosis.

“Even personal views can corrupt research.”

He said researchers of all perspectives should contest each other’s views.

“Contested research, where researchers with competing perspectives negotiate research options and methodologies in open processes, could help achieve a more robust evidence base,” Dr Whitely said.

“I intentionally partnered with researchers who had never expressed a view on ADHD. Next time I would like to go one step further and partner with those who disagree with my views.”

The seminar will be held in building 513 Learning Link LL 1.003 from 12.30pm to 1.30pm on February 23.

To attend, RSVP by Wednesday, February 22, by emailing