The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs

Confirmed for BBC One on 23 May at 9pm to 10pm

Ep 1/2

Wednesday 23 May



Two years ago, Dr. Chris van Tulleken discovered we are taking more prescription drugs than ever before: a billion prescriptions a year in the UK. He worked with a GP surgery to get patients to try drug-free alternatives - with amazing results.

Now he is on a new mission: Chris has worked out that we are giving British kids three times more medication than we were 40 years ago. As a new dad, Chris has a very personal motivation to explore the reasons behind this huge rise. In this series he sets about finding alternatives to drugs which might be just as, or even more, effective.

He tackles the shocking rise in teens taking anti-depressants by testing if Wilderness Therapy can work where the drugs are failing. He investigates why parents are giving out so many over-the-counter meds when they may not be always necessary. And he helps hyperactive kids replace their drugs with mindful meditation. He also digs deeper into the forces driving the over medication of UK children and asks whether the drug industry itself could be playing a part in the rise.

In 2016 we spent a staggering £64 million on one brand of children’s liquid paracetamol. Chris meets a self-confessed fan who reveals she has bought over 25 bottles in less than two years. As a new dad, Chris does not blame vulnerable parents; his research reveals a pharmaceutical industry that helps create a culture which, he believes, encourages parents to unnecessarily use liquid paracetamol. At a family fair in Bristol, Chris creates a surprising stunt to show Britain’s parents when not to give liquid paracetamol and make sure they do not waste their hard-earned money giving children drugs they do not need.

One of the other areas where medication rates have increased the most is treating kids' behavioural problems: prescription medication for ADHD have increased by 800 percent since 2000. These drugs do help some symptoms of ADHD in the short-term, but side-effects include loss of hunger, changes in personality and stunted growth. Chris joins a group of hyperactive children as they attempt the impossible - an intense course of stillness and mindful meditation as an alternative to the meds.

As the families go on transformative and emotional journeys they discover, with poignant results, that ADHD remedies do not always have to come in a pill.