Children in the West Midlands are being "drugged into submission" by the growing use of drugs such as Ritalin to control their behaviour, campaigners have claimed.

They believe psychiatrists increasingly diagnose "naughty" youngsters as hyperactive and give them medication because of a lack of provision in education to deal with them.

The Birmingham branch of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights condemned the labelling of children as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder by medics.

It claimed the use of drugs to calm their behaviour infringed their human rights and deprived them of their true personality.

Child psychologists denied the accusation, maintaining that in many cases medication can make all the difference, allowing youngsters to live normal lives.

Statistics from the Prescription Pricing Authority show the number of tablets dished out for ADHD in England grew from 2,000 in 1991 to 359,100 last year - representing a 13,000 per cent increase.

Despite being responsible for controlling and monitoring their accounts, many Primary Care Trusts in the West Midlands, including Birmingham, appear not to hold statistics for local dispensation.

An analysis of the 23 per cent that did have records, show more than 1,100 children in the region are on Methylphenidate, the group of drugs of which Ritalin is the best known.

Chris Wrapson, an investigator with the CCHR in Birmingham, said: "Psychiatrists are irresponsible.

"They prescribe mind altering psychotropic drugs in the same classification as cocaine to young children and then claim they have "cured" an unruly child of his "condition".

"If you were to find a child who is perhaps a little boisterous towards his classmates or has "ants in his pants", or sometimes doesn't pay attention in class, you would say he is merely being a normal healthy energetic child.

"These children are being drugged into submission."

Dr Sami Timimi, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist based in Lincolnshire, said: "The idea that there is such a thing as a test for ADHD is nonsense. There is no such thing." Jill Harris, a child psychologist at Birmingham's Children's Hospital, said: "There is evidence that if you change the learning environment then children will do better. But we are talking about a perfect world and not the over-stretched education system we have. So what we do is medicate."

Figures collected from Primary Care Trusts locally by the CCHR show 482 children under 18 were on ritalin-type drugs in South Staffordshire; 362 in Telford and Wrekin; 114 in Walsall and the Black Country; 100 in Herefordshire; 48 in North Staffordshire and seven in North Stoke.

The actual amount, however, is expected to be much higher if areas such as Birmingham and Solihull were included, for which figures were unavailable.