Along with the ADHD comes mood swings. Picture: Flickr.com

More children should be given drugs to treat ADHD, leading psychiatrists said.

Just one in ten British children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are prescribed drugs for the condition.

A major study, led by experts from Oxford University, King’s College London and Australia, found drugs are ‘extremely effective’ in treating the condition.

Professor David Coghill of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne said methylphenidate – known as Ritalin – is better at treating ADHD than statins are at treating heart disease. But only 0.5 per cent of under-16s in the UK receive the drugs, a tenth of the 5 per cent thought to have ADHD.

ADHD is the medical term for a group of behavioural problems which include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. The doctors, whose findings are published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, said common misconceptions about ADHD mean too few children are diagnosed with the condition or prescribed drugs.

They said part of the problem is the idea that it is not a ‘real’ condition – and is in fact used to label children who are simply naughty. Professor Coghill said: ‘We now have very clear evidence that the brains of children with ADHD both structurally and functionally are very different.’

The NHS-funded study examined data from 24,000 patients around the world, including 14,000 children, and concluded Ritalin remained the best medical option for children with ADHD – reducing symptoms by 78 per cent compared to placebo.

By comparison, statins – one of the most widely taken drugs in Britain – cut the chance of heart disease by just 18 per cent.