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ADHD Drugs in the Same Category as Cocaine, Morphine and Opium Given to Under 5 Year Olds: Australia’s ADHD Inquiry

Citizens Commission on Human Rights 3 mins read

With submissions closing this week for the Federal Parliament Senate Inquiry into ADHD now is the time for public and professionals to urgently take action to help protect vulnerable children and uphold parental rights. Most ADHD drugs, methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta and other brands), dexamfetamine and lisdexamfetamine are Schedule 8 drugs that the Australian Government has placed in the same category as cocaine, morphine and opium, something that parents are not always told at time of prescribing. In 2020, Australia already had a staggering 167,950 children on a drug for ADHD, 5,450 of these aged under 6-years-old.

The ADHD drug Strattera has a boxed warning for the risk of suicidal behaviour in children taking it placed on it by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

  • The TGA have received 56 adverse drug reaction reports linked to Strattera for suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, suicidal behaviour and suicide.


  • Of these 19 were children aged under 11 years who experienced suicidal behaviour.


  • These reports also include the suicide of a 9-year-old boy on Strattera and two 7-year-old girls who attempted suicide while on Strattera.

This vital suicidal behaviour warning is not included in Australia’s new ADHD Guideline which is being looked at as part of the ADHD Inquiry. The public are being asked to comment on if the recommendations of the Guideline are viable.

There are 113 recommendations in the ADHD Guideline which describes itself as “evidence based,” in its title, but Australian child psychiatrist Professor Jon Jureidini says only 12 of its recommendations are evidenced based and the remaining 101 are based on opinion and experience. And, “Of the 12 recommendations, nine have low or very low-quality evidence. The remaining three are based on evidence of moderate quality,” he said.

The appalling lack of science behind the ADHD Guideline is very much highlighted in its recommendation to use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Australia’s main manual used to diagnose ADHD. The two versions of the DSM manuals in use in Australia state for ADHD:

The DSM IV entry for ADHD: “There are no laboratory tests, neurological assessments or attentional assessments that have been established as diagnostic in the clinical assessment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” The latest edition of DSM which Australia has also adopted, DSM 5 states: “No biological marker is diagnostic for ADHD.”

Symptoms of ADHD include: “is often on the go, gets distracted, squirms or fidgets when sitting, does not listen when spoken to, talks too much, unable to play quietly, interrupts others, loses toys, pencils or books.” Normal childhood behaviour is being turned into a "mental disorder" and if there is a problem the child has, the cause of the problem is not located and rectified for the child.

Parents and teachers have a right to know that there is no way to scientifically diagnose any child with ADHD, that the subjective questionnaires they are being asked to fill out on children are not scientific and usually based on the DSM. Instead, the Guideline recommends training educators, medical and nursing staff in “ADHD” and even recommending more research in the area, when decades of research has still not scientifically proven any child has ADHD.

How can parents and professionals rely on the new ADHD Guideline when there were conflicts of interest histories in the development of the new ADHD Guideline with drug companies who make ADHD drugs.

  • The developers of the Guideline, Australian ADHD Professionals Association (AADPA) history includes: At least three of AADPA’s recent annual conferences have been sponsored by ADHD drug company manufacturers: Two of these conferences by Novartis who manufacture Ritalin (methylphenidate) and three conferences by Takeda who make Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine). And their upcoming 2023 annual conference is sponsored by Takeda and Novartis.


  • Prof. Mark Bellgrove, Corresponding Author of the ADHD Guidelines and President of AADPA has received a research grant from Eli Lilly, manufacturers of the ADHD drug Strattera. He has also given educational talks sponsored by Janssen-Cilag who manufacture Australia’s most prescribed ADHD drug, Concerta.


  • Daryl Efron, member of the new Guideline’s Development Group has declared in the past that he has been on ADHD advisory boards for Novartis and Eli Lilly. Psychiatrist Bruce Singh also a member of the Development Group, has declared in the past that he has consulted to and received speakers fees, received funding and travel consultation from Eli Lilly and Janssen-Cilag.

“Children do have problems, sometimes severe but children need real help, not stimulants that put them at risk of harm. Parents and teachers and those who care for and make decisions for children have the right to be given all the facts.” says Ms Wilkins, Executive Director of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights Australian National Office.

Submissions close Friday 9 June 2023. Public can lodge a submission to the Senate Committee conducting the ADHD Inquiry by emailing:

Contact: Shelley Wilkins (02) 99649844


CCHR was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Professor of Psychiatry the late Dr Thomas Szasz to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.


Key Facts:

       167,950 Australian children on drugs for ADHD, 5,450 of these aged under 6 years old. Is Australia's new ADHD Guideline viable? Submissions close this Friday for Federal Parlaiment ADHD Inquiry. 

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