About 600 Oxfordshire children are on controversial drugs costing the NHS £270,000 a year for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Some £273,643 was spent on three drugs such as Ritalin last year to treat the disorder, characterised by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

That is up from £238,810 in 2007/08.

The treatments have proved controversial, with critics saying poor parenting is largely to blame for diagnoses.

And one Oxfordshire resident, who was prescribed Ritalin as a youngster, said it should be used only as a last resort.

Peter Giles, who was given Ritalin from ages 11 to 13, said: “It has taken time to learn to develop concentration.” And he said of the drug: “It didn’t help me concentrate. It was going in one ear and out the other. I felt drained.”

While the 25-year-old said it stopped him getting into trouble at Eynsham’s Bartholomew School, leaving to be educated by a personal tutor at the age of 13 was a major step forward.

The web developer, from Clanfield, said of the drug: “I would strongly advise against it unless it was an absolute must.”

A doctor who oversees county treatment last night said while genetic factors played a large role, good parenting and schooling also have an impact.

Dr Rosie Shepperd, clinical director for the children and families division of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said of parents: “They might be saying ‘the school is rubbish, he is really naughty, we can’t manage’.

“You do the assessment and, actually, it is not necessarily to do with the child internally, it is what is going on around the child.”

She said: “It was a bit like dyslexia, when it became very fashionable and middle class families wanted children to have dyslexia because they were not very bright.

“There are a lot of children who don’t have necessarily the best of upbringings and if they are in a disruptive school or class where behavioural and educational needs are not being recognised and supported, then it might be combination of things like that.”

But she said the powerful medication was “clearly effective in the right children”.

Prof Priscilla Alderson, Professor of Childhood Studies at the University of London, said diagnoses of ADHD could result in the “destruction of real childhood”.

She added: “Children who try to be active are seen as abnormal or ‘hyper’.”