Canberra patients with ADHD forced to get treatment interstate
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Canberra patients with ADHD forced to get treatment interstate

Some Canberra sufferers of attention deficit hyperactive disorder say they are being forced to travel interstate to see psychiatrists due to the lack of local treatment options.

Adults taking prescription medication for ADHD require regular reviews by a psychiatrist.

President of The Canberra & Queanbeyan ADD Support Group support group Richard Windsor in his office.

President of The Canberra & Queanbeyan ADD Support Group support group Richard Windsor in his office.

Photo: Jay Cronan

The importance of ensuring ADHD is managed appropriately was highlighted in a recently-published Swedish study that found people with the disorder were at increased risk of being involved in serious traffic accidents.

Several ACT residents with ADHD have told The Canberra Times they have struggled to get appointments with local psychiatrists who treat the condition. Richard Windsor, president of the Canberra and Queanbeyan ADHD support group, said his organisation has recommended that people seek help from interstate psychiatrists.

"Unfortunately, for adults we're sending everyone to Sydney and Melbourne - we're not sending anyone to psychiatrists in Canberra,'' Mr Windsor said.

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This was creating difficulties for people who needed prescriptions renewed, particularly patients whose symptoms included difficulty in staying organised.

'If they remember they've got to get their prescription renewed, they might not do it in enough time,'' Mr Windsor said.

Diagnosing an adult with ADHD can require two psychiatrists or a psychiatrist and a neurologist.

A study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry last week found that people with ADHD were about 50 per cent more likely than the rest of the population to be involved in serious traffic accidents.

The study involved 17,000 patients with ADHD between 2006 and 2009. It found male patients who were taking medication to manage the condition reduced their risk of being involved in vehicle accidents.

The study did not clearly show whether or not this was also the case for women.

Mr Windsor said he was not surprised by the findings: "Impulsivity leads to doing stupid things.'' He said he had a friend with ADHD who was caught speeding by the same fixed-point speeding camera more than 40 times before realising what she had been doing.

Canberra GP Suzanne Davey, who chairs the Australian Medical Association's GP Forum, said the departure of two psychiatrists from practice in Canberra had left some adult ADHD patients without a specialist available.

Dr Davey said some had been able to receive treatment through the public health system.

"I would certainly think there are insufficient psychiatrists in Canberra But there are insufficiencies of a lot of specialists in Canberra,'' she said.

"I would not think there is a pressing issue.

"Patients I've had in that situation, I've been able to get seen in the public system.''

Children with ADHD were usually able to receive treatment from local paediatricians.

The ADHD support group has been lobbying for the finalisation of national treatment guidelines.

Mr Windsor, who was diagnosed with ADHD about 18 years ago, said appropriate treatment and support could help people to manage the condition successfully.

"ADHD is not a mental illness. It's a mental wellness thing, but untreated ADHD leads down the path to things we describe as mental illness,'' he said.

"And those are primarily anxiety and depression.''

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