For Adults with ADHD: What Should you Doctor be Doing for your ADHD?

For Adults with ADHD: What Should Your Doctor be Doing for your ADHD?

Recognizing whether your ADHD is being managed appropriately requires an understanding of what constitutes effective treatment. Here are some indicators of proper ADHD treatment:

Recognizing whether your ADHD is being managed appropriately requires an understanding of what constitutes effective treatment. Here are some indicators of proper ADHD treatment:

Comprehensive Evaluation: An appropriate diagnosis of ADHD involves a comprehensive evaluation, including medical history, clinical interviews, and assessment tools. It should also exclude other conditions that may mimic ADHD.

Clear Communication: Your doctor should provide a clear explanation of ADHD, its symptoms, treatment options, potential side effects, and expected outcomes. They should answer your questions patiently and help dispel any misconceptions.

Individualized Treatment Plan: ADHD treatment often involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. Your doctor should tailor the treatment plan to your specific needs, symptoms, and life circumstances.

Medication Management: If medication is part of your treatment plan, your doctor should monitor its effects and side effects closely, adjusting the dosage as necessary. Remember, the aim is to maximize benefits and minimize side effects.  Much research shows that it is usually best to start treatment with an FDA approved medication.  If your doctor decides otherwise, you should ask why.

Psychotherapy and Coaching: Pills don’t provide skills.  Many adults with ADHD never acquired life skills due to untreated ADHD. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is beneficial for managing ADHD. Your doctor might recommend this and refer you to a psychologist, or they might provide some elements of these services themselves.  

Regular Follow-Ups: Regular follow-ups are critical to assess the effectiveness of the treatment plan and to make necessary adjustments. Your doctor should be tracking your progress and adapting your treatment as needed.

Empowering You: A good doctor will support you in managing your ADHD, providing education, resources, and tools that empower you to lead a healthy, fulfilling life.

Focus on Strengths: ADHD can come with strengths, such as creativity, dynamism, and the ability to think outside the box. An effective healthcare provider will help you leverage these strengths.

Involvement of Loved Ones: Depending on your circumstances, involving your loved ones in your treatment process can be beneficial. They can provide additional support and understanding.

Co-ordinating with Other Healthcare Providers: If you have other healthcare providers involved in your care, your doctor should communicate and coordinate with them to ensure consistent and comprehensive care.

Remember, you have the right to seek a second opinion if you feel your ADHD is not being appropriately managed. Trust your instincts and advocate for your health. It may also be helpful to join ADHD support groups (online or offline) to connect with others who share similar experiences. Their insights and recommendations could be beneficial.  Also keep in mind that achieving an optimal outcome for one’s ADHD often requires the doctor to try a few different medications as it is not currently possible to predict which patients do best on which medications.

January 29, 2024

Hong Kong population study finds methylphenidate use is associated with reduced risk of fractures among persons with ADHD

Hong Kong Population Study Finds Methylphenidate Use is Associated With Reduced Risk of Fractures Among Persons with ADHD

Some animal studies and laboratory experiments have suggested that methylphenidate, the most widely prescribed pharmaceutical to treat ADHD, may weaken bones. On the other hand, other studies have indicated that methylphenidate is associated with lower risk of injury.

Some animal studies and laboratory experiments have suggested that methylphenidate, the most widely prescribed pharmaceutical to treat ADHD, may weaken bones. On the other hand, other studies have indicated that methylphenidate is associated with lower risk of injury.

What, then, is the overall effect? 

The Hong Kong Hospital Authority is the sole public health provider for the city’s 7.3 million residents. Using the Clinical Data Analysis and Reporting System, the Authority’s electronic database, an international study team set out to explore this question.

Among 43,841 individuals with ADHD medication, the team identified 2,023 children and youths 5 through 24 years old with both methylphenidate prescription and a fracture between January 2001 and December 2020. 

In the six months following prescription, individuals were found to be roughly 40% less likely to be treated for a fracture than in the six months prior to prescription. The same held true when comparing the period 7 to 12 months after prescription with the six months prior to prescription. 

As a control, the team also looked at the effect of methylphenidate prescription on a completely unrelated condition – diseases of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. 

In this case, there was absolutely no difference in disease incidence for equal periods of time before and after initiation of methylphenidate treatment.

The team concluded, “for all-cause fractures, the results of the … within-individual comparison demonstrated that the use of methylphenidate is associated with lower risk … compared with the … period before the treatment initiation.”

January 30, 2024

Meta-analysis indicates physical activity interventions lead to major improvements in motor proficiency in children and adolescents with ADHD

Meta-analysis Indicates Physical Activity Lead to Major Improvements in Motor Proficiency in Children with ADHD

The three primary symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which can significantly limit personal, social, academic, or occupational functioning.

The three primary symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which can significantly limit personal, social, academic, or occupational functioning. 

In addition to these symptoms, between a third and a half of children and adolescents with ADHD have limited motor proficiency. They are less coordinated or skilled in performing motor tasks than their peers. This in turn reduces their participation in physical activities. They are more likely to become overweight or obese. They are also more likely to have difficulty socializing with peers.

Current ADHD medications are effective at treating the primary symptoms of ADHD, but have no known effect on impaired motor proficiency. 

Noting that “physical activity interventions are relatively easy to implement and have been shown to improve motor proficiency compared to other behavioral therapies,” a joint Chinese and American study team set out to explore effect sizes through a systematic review of the peer-reviewed medical literature.

They identified ten studies with a total of 413 participants suitable for meta-analysis. Overall, physical activity interventions led to very large effect size improvements in motor proficiency. There was no sign of publication bias, but considerable variation (heterogeneity) between studies.

To address this heterogeneity, the team next investigated how different types of physical activity intervention affected outcomes. Those that concentrated on body coordination, fine motor control (manual dexterity, using the small muscles in our hands and wrists), and object control (moving or receiving an object such as a ball with accuracy) were found to be responsible for the large effect size improvements in motor proficiency, this time with low heterogeneity.

By contrast, strength and agility training and locomotor training (such as walking, running, hopping, skipping) were associated with smaller effect size improvements that were no longer significant, and continued to vary significantly between studies.

Despite combining ten separate studies, sample sizes remained small, even more so when broken down by type of physical activity intervention. Strength and agility interventions were associated with a medium-to-large effect size improvement, but with only four studies combining 131 participants, may simply have been under-powered to achieve significance. Similarly, locomotor interventions were associated with small-to-medium effect size improvement, but with only three studies and a total of 117 participants, may again have been under-powered. 

While these preliminary findings look promising, they will need additional studies and greater numbers of total participants to be confirmed.

March 7, 2024

Nationwide population study finds no harm from in utero exposure to ADHD medication

Nationwide Population Study Finds No Harm from In Utero Exposure to ADHD Medication

Now that ADHD pharmaceuticals are among the most widely prescribed medications during pregnancy, we need to be aware of any long-term harms to offspring from in utero exposure.

Now that ADHD pharmaceuticals are among the most widely prescribed medications during pregnancy, we need to be aware of any long-term harms to offspring from in-utero exposure.

Denmark has a single-payer public health care system that encompasses virtually its entire population. Combined with national registers that track demographic as well as health data for the whole population, this makes it easy to do population-wide studies.

Availing itself of these registers, an international study team looked at all 1,068,073 single births from 1998 to 2015. It then followed all these individuals through the end of 2018, or until any developmental diagnosis, death, or emigration, whichever came first.

The team compared children of mothers who continued ADHD medication (methylphenidate, amphetamine, dexamphetamine, lisdexamphetamine, modafinil, atomoxetine, clonidine) during pregnancy with children of mothers who discontinued ADHD medication before pregnancy. There were 898 of the former and 1,270 of the latter in the cohort.

To reduce the influence of potential confounding variables, the team adjusted for maternal age, parity, maternal psychiatric history, in- or outpatient admission to psychiatric ward within two years prior to pregnancy and until delivery, use of other psychotropic medications during pregnancy, number of hospitalizations during pregnancy not related to psychiatry, smoking during pregnancy, living alone, education, birthyear, and psychiatric history of the father. 

Children exposed in utero to ADHD medication were found to be at no greater risk of any developmental impairment.

The timing of the exposure by trimester of pregnancy made no difference. Neither did the duration of exposure.

Neither children exposed to stimulant medications (methylphenidate, amphetamine, dexamphetamine, lisdexamphetamine, modafinil) nor to non-stimulants (atomoxetine, clonidine) were at greater risk of any developmental impairment

Focusing more narrowly on specific impairments, children exposed in utero to ADHD medication were no more likely to be autistic. They were more likely to have ADHD, but the association did not reach statistical significance.

Children exposed in utero to ADHD medication were also no more likely to develop hearing or cerebral vision impairment or febrile seizures or a growth impairment. Surprisingly, they were 40% less likely to become epileptic, the only statistically significant association found in the study.

The authors concluded, “Our results are important because stimulant medications are critical for many adults, including women of childbearing age, to perform their essential functions at work, home, and school. Pregnant women who depend on stimulants for daily functioning must weigh the potential of exposing their fetus to unknown developmental risks against potential medical, financial, and other consequences to both mother and child that are associated with exacerbation of ADHD symptoms when stopping the medication, such as inability to maintain employment and unsafe driving. The present study provides reassurance that several essential categories of child outcomes that could reasonably be suspected to be affected by stimulants, including body growth, neurodevelopment, and seizure risk, do not differ based on antenatal stimulant exposure. Future studies would benefit from larger sample sizes making it possible to conduct stratified analyses on ADHD medication type.”

Study of U.S. 12th grade public and private school students finds no link between stimulant use for ADHD and subsequent cocaine or methamphetamine use

Large Scale Study of U.S. High Schoolers Finds No Link Between Stimulant Use for ADHD and Subsequent Cocaine or Methamphetamine Use

Monitoring the Future is a multicohort U.S. national longitudinal study of adolescents followed up into young adulthood.

Monitoring the Future is a multicohort U.S. national longitudinal study of adolescents followed up into young adulthood. 

The U.S. research team used data from this study to follow 5,034 twelfth graders over a period of six years, until they were 23 and 24 years of age.

Prescription stimulant misuse was assessed at baseline and each follow-up survey year by asking how often they used prescription stimulants without a physician’s orders. They were similarly asked about cocaine and methamphetamine use.

The study team adjusted for the following confounding variables: sex, race and ethnicity, parents’ level of education, urbanicity, U.S. region, cohort year, grade point average during high school, past-30-day cigarette use (at 18 years of age), past-2-week binge drinking (at 18), past-year marijuana use (at 18), past-year prescription opioid misuse (at 18), past-year prescription stimulant misuse (at 18), lifetime cocaine use (at 18), lifetime methamphetamine use (at 18), lifetime use of nonstimulant therapy for ADHD (at 18), and discontinued use of stimulant therapy for ADHD (at 18).

With these adjustments, they found that stimulant use for ADHD was in no way associated with subsequent cocaine use. In fact, it was associated with lesser odds of subsequent cocaine use, though the association was not statistically significant.

Likewise, they reported that stimulant use for ADHD was in no way associated with subsequent methamphetamine use.

On the other hand, those who used prescription stimulants without a physician’s orders were 2.6 times more likely to subsequently use either cocaine or methamphetamine.

The team concluded, “In this multicohort study of adolescents exposed to prescription stimulants, adolescents who used stimulant therapy for ADHD did not differ from population controls in initiation of illicit stimulant (cocaine or methamphetamine) use, which suggested a potential protective effect, given evidence of elevated illicit stimulant use among those with ADHD. In contrast, monitoring adolescents for PSM is warranted because this behavior offered a strong signal for transitioning to later cocaine or methamphetamine initiation and use during young adulthood.”

February 15, 2024

Update: New Research about ADHD in Adults

Update: New Research about ADHD in Adults

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that is typically diagnosed in childhood but can persist into adulthood. Its symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, and it can significantly affect daily life, academic achievement, and professional success.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that is typically diagnosed in childhood but can persist into adulthood. Its symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, and it can significantly affect daily life, academic achievement, and professional success. As scientific understanding of the condition continues to evolve, new research is revealing more insights into the prevalence, comorbidity, treatment, and physiological aspects of ADHD in adults. Here's a roundup of some recent findings:

Location of Mental Healthcare and ADHD Treatment Prevalence

A recent study assessing the prevalence of treatment for ADHD among US college students found that the location of mental health care significantly affects treatment outcomes. Specifically, students receiving mental healthcare on campus were less likely to receive any medication or therapy for ADHD, suggesting the need to evaluate the quality of mental health services available on college campuses and their effectiveness in treating ADHD.

 Oxidative Stress and l-Arginine/Nitric Oxide Pathway in ADHD 

Another study found a correlation between ADHD and the l-Arginine/Nitric oxide (Arg/NO) pathway, a physiological process linked to dopamine release and cardiovascular functioning. The study found that adults with ADHD who were not treated with methylphenidate (a common ADHD medication) showed variations in the Arg/NO pathway. This could have implications for monitoring potential cardiovascular side effects of ADHD medications, as well as for understanding the biochemical changes that occur in ADHD. 

Chronic Pain in ADHD

ADHD and chronic pain appear to be related, according to a comparative study of clinical and general population samples. Particularly in females with ADHD, the prevalence of chronic and multisite pain was found to be high. This calls for longitudinal studies to understand the complex sex differences of comorbid chronic pain and ADHD in adolescents and the potential impacts of stimulant use on pain.

ADHD and Violent Behavior

Finally, a study investigated the comorbidity of ADHD and bipolar disorder (BD) and its potential link to violent behavior. The research revealed a positive effect of ADHD symptoms on violence tendency and aggression scores. Moreover, male gender and young age were also found to have significant positive effects on violence and aggression scores, suggesting an association between these disorders and violent behavior.

June 3, 2024

Population Study Finds Reductions in Crime Rates Among Persons with ADHD Receiving Pharmacological Treatment

Population Study Finds Reductions in Violent and Public Order Crime Rates Among Persons with ADHD Receiving Pharmacological Treatment

Norway has a single-payer health insurance system that covers virtually the entire population and is linked to a series of national registries tracking all sorts of data including criminal records.

Norway has a single-payer health insurance system that covers virtually the entire population and is linked to a series of national registries tracking all sorts of data including criminal records.

Using this data, a study team identified all 5,624 persons aged 10 to 18 diagnosed with ADHD between 2009 and 2011. It tracked their use of ADHD medication, and subsequent criminal charges. 

Filled prescriptions were primarily for stimulant methylphenidate (90%) and the nonstimulant atomoxetine (9.5%). They tracked the cumulative number of daily defined doses (DDD) filled for any ADHD prescriptions following ADHD diagnosis. 

They also compared this group with a general population sample of persons aged 10 to 18 without contact with mental health services, matched on age, sex, and geography.

They adjusted for the following confounders: age, sex, year of contact with clinic, psychiatric comorbidity at time of diagnosis, country of birth, charges before ADHD diagnosis, parents’ marital status, parent’s highest education when the child was 6 years, and parent’s labor income when the child was 6 years. 

They further adjusted for municipality-level population size and high school dropout rates, and the following aggregated measures from the random sample of the general population: municipality-level labor income of parents and clinic-level percent of youth crime, youth immigrants, mothers’ marriage rate, and parents’ education level.

Comparing persons with ADHD to the matched general population over eight years follow-up, those with ADHD had considerably higher rates of criminal charges:

  • 2.7 times more likely to be charged with any crime.
  • 6 times more likely to be charged with a violent crime.
  • 7 times more likely to be charged with a sexual offense (though only among males)
  • 4 times more likely to be charged with property crimes.

Next the team examined outcomes of pharmaceutical treatment.

Comparing persons with ADHD undergoing pharmacological treatment with those not receiving such treatment, those undergoing treatment had lower rates of certain criminal charges. At two years follow-up, those treated had 7.3% less violence-related charges. This corresponds to a number needed to treat (NNT) estimate of 14, indicating that on average treating 14 patients for two years avoids one violence-related criminal charge. Pharmacological treatment reduces public-order charges by at four years follow-up by 15.4% (NNT = 7), and any crime at three years follow-up by 18.5% (NNT = 5).

The authors noted, “Violence and public-order crimes are often caused by reactive-impulsive behavior which is more common in ADHD,” and concluded, “this is the first study to demonstrate causal effects of pharmacological treatment of ADHD on some types of crimes in a population-based natural experiment. Pharmacological treatment of ADHD reduced crime related to impulsive-reactive behavior in patients with ADHD on the margin of treatment, while no effects were found in crimes requiring criminal intent, conspiracy, and planning.”

May 9, 2024

Inequities in ADHD diagnosis in the United States

Inequities in ADHD diagnosis in the United States

A transcontinental study team (California, Texas, Florida) used a nationally representative sample – the 2018 National Survey of Children’s Health – to query 26,205 caregivers of youth aged 3 to 17 years old to explore inequities in ADHD diagnosis.

A transcontinental study team (California, Texas, Florida) used a nationally representative sample – the 2018 National Survey of Children’s Health – to query 26,205 caregivers of youth aged 3 to 17 years old to explore inequities in ADHD diagnosis.  

With increasing accessibility of the internet in the U.S., more than 80% of adults now search for health information online. Recognizing that search engine data could help clarify patterns of inequity, the team also consulted Google Trends.

The team noted at the outset that “[d]ocumenting the true prevalence of ADHD remains challenging in light of problems of overdiagnosis (e.g., following quick screening rather than full evaluation incorporating multi-informant and multi-method data given limited resources) and underdiagnosis (e.g., reflecting inequities in healthcare and education systems).” Underdiagnosis is known to be influenced by lack or inadequacy of health insurance, inadequate public health funding, stigma, sociocultural expectations in some ethnic groups, and structural racism, among other factors.

After controlling for poverty status, highest education in household, child’s sex, and child’s age, the team reported that Black youth were a quarter (22%) less likely to receive ADHD diagnoses than their white peers. Latino/Hispanic youth were a third (32%) less likely and Asian youth three-quarters (73%) less likely to receive ADHD diagnoses than their white peers.

The team also found that state-level online search interest in ADHD was positively associated with ADHD diagnoses, after controlling for race/ethnicity, poverty status, highest education in household, child’s sex, and child’s age. However, the odds ratio was low (1.01), “suggesting the need for additional evaluation.” Furthermore, “There was no interaction between individual-level racial/ethnic background and state-level information-seeking patterns. … the state-level online information-seeking variation did not affect the odds that youth of color would have a current ADHD diagnosis over and above other included characteristics.” 

That could be due in part to the gap in high-speed broadband access between Black and Hispanic in contrast to white populations, but that would not explain the even larger gaps in diagnosis for Asian youth, who tend to come from more prosperous backgrounds.

The team concluded, “Persistent racial/ethnic inequities warrant systematic changes in policy and clinical care that can attend to the needs of underserved communities. The digital divide adds complexity to persistent racial/ethnic and socioeconomic inequities in ADHD diagnosis …”

Daytime Sleepiness, Cognitive Function, and Adult ADHD

What’s the relationship between daytime sleepiness and cognitive functioning in adults with ADHD?

Sleep disorders are one of the most commonly self-reported comorbidities of adults with ADHD, affecting 50 to 70 percent of them.

Sleep disorders are one of the most commonly self-reported comorbidities of adults with ADHD, affecting 50 to 70 percent of them. A team of British researchers set out to see whether this association could be further confirmed with objective sleep measures, using cognitive function tests and electroencephalography (EEG).

Measured as theta/beta ratio, EEG slowing is a widely used indicator in ADHD research. While it occurs normally in non-ADHD adults at the conclusion of a day, during the day it signals excessive sleepiness, whether from obstructive sleep apnea or neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders. Coffee reverses EEG slowing, as do ADHD stimulant medications.

Study participants were either on stable treatment with ADHD medication (stimulant or non-stimulant medication) or on no medication. Participants had to refrain from taking any stimulant medications for at least 48 hours prior to taking the tests. Persons with IQ below 80 or with recurrent depression or undergoing a depressive episode were excluded.

The team administered a cognitive function test, The Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART). Observers rated on-task sleepiness using videos from the cognitive testing sessions. They wired participants for EEG monitoring.

Observer-rated sleepiness was found to be moderately higher in the ADHD group than in controls. Although sleep quality was slightly lower in the sleepy group than in the ADHD group, and symptom severity slightly greater in the ADHD group than the sleepy group, neither difference was statistically significant, indicating extensive overlap.

Omission errors in the SART were strongly correlated with sleepiness level, and the strength of this correlation was independent of ADHD symptom severity. EEG slowing in all regions of the brain was more than 50 percent higher in the ADHD group than in the control group and was highest in the frontal cortex.

Treating the sleepy group as a third group, EEG slowing was highest for the ADHD group, followed closely by the sleepy group, and more distantly by the neurotypical group. The gaps between the ADHD and sleepy groups on the one hand, and the neurotypical group on the other, were both large and statistically significant, whereas the gap between the ADHD and sleepy groups was not. EEG slowing was both a significant predictor of ADHD and of ADHD symptom severity.

The authors concluded, “These findings indicate that the cognitive performance deficits routinely attributed to ADHD … are largely due to on-task sleepiness and not exclusively due to ADHD symptom severity. … we would like to propose a simple working hypothesis that daytime sleepiness plays a major role in cognitive functioning of adults with ADHD. … As adults with ADHD are more severely sleep deprived compared to neurotypical control subjects and are more vulnerable to sleep deprivation, in various neurocognitive tasks they should manifest larger sleepiness-related reductions in cognitive performance. … One clear testable prediction of the working hypothesis would be that carefully controlling for sleepiness, time of day, and/or individual circadian rhythms would result in a substantial reduction in the neurocognitive deficits in replications of classic ADHD studies.”

March 31, 2022

Meta-analysis suggests ADHD contributes significantly to alcohol use disorder in persons with comorbid bipolar disorder

Meta-analysis suggests ADHD contributes significantly to alcohol use disorder in persons with comorbid bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a severe mental illness that afflicts over one in fifty persons worldwide. About a quarter of those with bipolar disorder also has alcohol use disorder (AUD). This in turn complicates the treatment of their bipolar disorder. It exacerbates their symptoms, makes them more likely to be suicidal, and increases the risk of hospitalization.

More than one in five persons with bipolar disorder also have ADHD, which is likewise known to be correlated with AUD. To what extent does ADHD contribute to AUD in persons with comorbid bipolar disorder?

A European study team recently conducted a systematic search of the peer-reviewed medical literature to address that question. The team identified eleven studies with a combined total of 2,734 participants that could be aggregated to perform a meta-analysis.

They found that persons with comorbid ADHD and bipolar disorder were two and a half times more likely to be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder than persons with bipolar disorder but no ADHD.

Between-study heterogeneity was negligible, and there was no sign of publication bias.

The authors concluded, "At least a portion of the high rates of AUD in BD may, thereby, be related to comorbid ADHD. Longitudinal studies are needed to clarify the nature of this relationship."

March 13, 2022

Comedication in Adults With ADHD

Comedication with ADHD medication in adults in a nationwide population cohort study

Individuals who are prescribed ADHD medications are much more likely to also be prescribed other medications both for psychiatric and non-psychiatric disorders.

Persons with ADHD have known to have high rates of psychiatric comorbidities. There is also growing evidence of somatic (non-psychiatric) comorbid disorders among youths with ADHD, such as metabolic syndrome (which can lead to type 2 diabetes) and chronic inflammation (such as asthma and allergic rhinitis). Much less is known, however, about comorbid conditions in adults with ADHD.

An international team of researchers looked for indicators of comorbid conditions in a nationwide cohort study using Swedish national registers. The target population was Swedish residents between the ages of 18 and 64 in 2013 and more specifically those who had been prescribed ADHD medication. They identified over 41,000 individuals who met these criteria, including over twenty thousand young adults aged 18-29 years, over sixteen thousand middle-aged adults aged 30-49 years, and over four thousand older adults aged 50-64. The remainder of the overall cohort were used as controls.

Young adults receiving ADHD medications were four times as likely to also be receiving somatic medications, and older adults were seven times as likely. The highest rate of co-medication -roughly five times more frequent than among controls - was for respiratory system medications. The second most common was for alimentary tract and metabolic system medications, with odds over four times higher than for controls. Cardiovascular system medications were the next most common, with odds among young adults receiving ADHD medications over four times those of controls, though reducing with age to being twice as common in older adults with ADHD. Patterns were similar among men and women.

Adults receiving ADHD medications were far more likely to also be receiving other psychotropic medications. Middle-aged adults were 21 times as likely to be dispensed such medications as controls, older adults eighteen times more likely, and younger adults fifteen times more likely.

For young adults prescribed ADHD medications, the most prevalent co-prescriptions were for addictive disorders, which were dispensed at over 26 times the rate for controls. For middle-aged and older adults, on the other hand, the most prevalent co-prescriptions were for antipsychotics, which were likewise dispensed at over 26 times the rate for controls. Results remained consistent for individuals who had an ADHD diagnosis in addition to an ADHD prescription.

In addition, individuals receiving ADHD medications were also on average taking more types of prescriptions, rising from 2.5 classes of medications at age 18 to five classes at age 64. For controls, the equivalent numbers were 0.9 types of medications at age 18, rising to 2.7 at age 64.

Looking at specific somatic medications prescribed, those for respiratory conditions were ones typically prescribed for asthma and allergic reactions, reinforcing a previously known association. Insulin preparations also had high rates of co-prescription, again further confirming the known association with obesity and diabetes.

On the other hand, the most commonly dispensed alimentary tract and metabolic system medications included proton pump inhibitors, typically prescribed for gastric/duodenal ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Sodium fluoride, prescribed to prevent dental caries, was also prominent. Neither of these is an established association and warrants further exploration.

Turning to psychotropic medications, the most frequent prescriptions were with drugs used to treat addictive disorders and with antipsychotics. Rates of opioid co-prescription were also notably high, a source of concern given the higher proclivity of persons with ADHD to substance use disorders.

March 5, 2022

Exploring how adult ADHD affects romantic relationships

Exploring how adult ADHD affects romantic relationships

ADHD symptoms are negatively associated with satisfaction in dating relationships but further study is needed to understand the mechanisms behind this, such as emotional regulation and deficits in inhibitory controls.

While romantic relationships can bring contentment and stability to adults with psychological disorders, conflict in such relationships adds incremental risk for developing depressive, anxiety, and substance use disorders. Moreover, persons with ADHD are more prone to such conflict than those without ADHD.

ADHD symptoms are negatively associated with satisfaction in dating relationships. One study found that female college students, blind to ADHD status, were less interested in male students with ADHD-Inattentive presentation than peers without ADHD. Another study found that college students who self-reported significant inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms also reported lower romantic relationship satisfaction than students not reporting such symptoms. A third study likewise found an inverse association between college student-reported inattentive symptoms and romantic relationship satisfaction, although it found no such association for self-reported hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.

This in turn has behavioral implications. One study found that college students with clinically elevated symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, or both, reported higher levels of hostile conflict behavior with their partners than students without clinically elevated symptoms. Another study placed young couples through conflict resolutions. Couples in which one partner had ADHD demonstrated more negative and less positive conflict resolution behavior, and reported lower relational satisfaction, than couples in which neither partner had an ADHD diagnosis.

Worse yet, ADHD is a risk factor for dating violence. Two studies found that young adult males diagnosed with ADHD as children self-reported engaging in more frequent verbal and physical intimate partner violence than did their normally developing peers. Two more studies reported that men and women diagnosed with ADHD as children were at greater risk of becoming victims of such violence.

Adults with ADHD are also more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. On average, they initiate sexual intercourse between one and two years earlier. They tend to have more partners and to make less frequent use of contraception than non-ADHD peers. As a result, adults with ADHD are also more likely to have unplanned pregnancies and to acquire sexually transmitted diseases.

Given these findings, it is hardly surprising that adults with ADHD report lower marital satisfaction than their normally developing peers. One study reported that 24 out of every 25 spouses of adults with ADHD felt their partner's symptoms interfered with their functioning in one or more domains, including general household organization/time management, child-rearing, and communication. Most studies have found that extramarital affairs, separation, and divorce are more frequent among couples in which one partner has ADHD.

ADHD is known to be highly heritable. That introduces further challenges. One study found that parents of children with ADHD are twice as likely to divorce by the time their child is eight years older than parents of children without ADHD. Another study found that disruptive child behavior is linked to parents arguing among themselves. This pattern was especially pronounced with parents who themselves had elevated ADHD symptoms. However, another study found that when both parents had ADHD symptoms, they were less likely to argue than when only one parent had such symptoms, or when neither did.

The authors note that there have been few longitudinal studies of the relationship to the behavior of adults with ADHD and that these are badly needed. This would help to understand how alcohol consumption relates to the development of relationship problems, for example.

Second, they point out that little is known about which subpopulations in the large population of adults with ADHD may be especially at risk for romantic relationship problems. Gender and history of maltreatment do not appear to be significant influences, but there is some evidence that alcohol and drug abuse may be a factor, as well as underachievement in adolescence. Moreover, the literature to date has focused on heterosexual Caucasian couples. There is a need for research with larger, more heterogeneous, population samples, and in particular with racial/ethnic minorities and LGBTQ+ adults.

Third, they suggest a need for further research on mediators between ADHD and romantic relationship problems. There are reasons to suspect a key role for emotion dysregulation and deficits in inhibitory controls. But studies to date have relied on self-reporting, which introduces respondent bias. Future studies should obtain ratings of ADHD and relationship functioning from other informants. There is also a need for studies focusing not just on younger adults, but also on older ones. Another critical need is for clinical trials testing the effectiveness of different interventions aiming to improve romantic relationship functioning.

The authors conclude, "Given that success in romantic relationships is considered by many to be a major developmental task and that ADHD persists for many affected individuals into adulthood, research on romantic adjustment of affected adults is surprisingly limited. The majority of existent published research points, however, to a robust association between ADHD and negative outcomes such as lower satisfaction in relationships, maladaptive conflict resolution styles, higher rates of relational dissolution, and behavioral issues such as unsafe sex and IPV."

February 19, 2022

Study Suggests Certain ADHD Meds May Have Protective Effect On The Brain

Might methylphenidate have a protective effect on brain development?

Methylphenidate, a psychostimulant, is among the drugs most frequently prescribed to children with ADHD.

Using magnetic resonance imaging(MRI), studies have shown that as children mature, those with ADHD differ from controls in developing regionally thinner cortices (the folded outer layer of the cerebrum that is essential to rational thought) and smaller lower basal ganglia(structures linked to the thalamus in the base of the brain and involved in the coordination of movement). The cortical differences were found in the right medial frontal motor region, the left middle/inferior frontal gyrus, and the right posterior parieto-occipital region in children with ADHD who were not taking psychostimulants.

A Dutch/Norwegian team of researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with 96 males recruited from Dutch clinical programs. 48 were boys aged 10-12 years, and 47 were men between the ages of 23 and 40. None had previously been on methylphenidate. There were no significant differences in baseline age, ADHD symptom severity, estimated intelligence quotient, the proportion of right-handedness, or region of interest brain characteristics between the placebo and medication groups.

The trial was carried out during the standard 17-week waiting list time for evaluation and treatment to begin so that those receiving a placebo during the trial would not ultimately be at a disadvantage. The same MRI scanner was used for all measurements, both before and after treatment.

Among the boys, the methylphenidate group showed increased thickness in the right medial cortex, while the placebo group showed cortical thinning. In adults, both groups showed cortical thinning. When converted into an estimated mean rate of change in cortical thickness for the right medial cortex, boys taking methylphenidate could expect to lose about 0.01 mm per year, versus about 0.14 mm for boys not on methylphenidate.

In the right posterior cortex, scans also showed reduced thinning in the methylphenidate treatment group, though to a lesser extent. But there was no reduced thinning in the left frontal cortex.

The authors noted several limitations. The sample size was small. Second, "because we did not detect significant relationships between changes in cortical [regions of interest] and changes in symptom severity, the functional significance remains uncertain." Third, the follow-up period was relatively short, not allowing any assessment of the longer-term effects of the medication. Fourth, the differences in effects on the three brain regions examined were uneven, contrary to what had been expected from previous studies. They recommended replication with larger groups and longer follow-ups.

February 11, 2022

How does ADHD affect sexual function?

How does ADHD affect sexual function?

This review of seven studies addressing ADHD and sexuality points to a need for further research on ADHD and sexuality, with larger sample sizes.

This systematic review of the literature identified seven studies addressing ADHD and sexuality.

Sexual function

A Dutch study compared 136 persons with ADHD with two large surveys of the general Dutch population. They used both a self-report questionnaire, the Questionnaire for screening Sexual Dysfunction and a non-validated questionnaire especially constructed for the study. They found that males with ADHD reported a 50 percent higher rate of frequent masturbation than males in the general population. Both males and females were less than half as likely to be satisfied with their sex life. That was almost certainly linked to the fact that ADHD participants in the sample were less likely to be in a relationship.

A second study compared 79 ADHD participants with controls. Using a validated questionnaire, the Diagnostic Interview Schedule, to assess sexual function, they found a significant positive correlation between ADHD and the items "sex drive more than the average" and "recurrent thoughts about sex' by comparison with the control group.

A third study used two validated inventories “ the Derogates Sexual Functioning Inventory and the Social Sexual Orientation Inventory“ to assess sexual function among 27 young adult males. They found their sex drive to be higher than in the control group. 

Another study, also with 27 ADHD patients, compared them with two other groups, one with fiber mitosis (benign connective tissue cancers), and the other with both ADHD and fibromatosis. They used the validated Life Satisfaction Questionnaire to assess sexual function and found that those with ADHD reported lower sex life satisfaction.

On the other hand, the only large study, with over 14,000 participants, using a non-validated questionnaire to assess sexual function, found negligible associations between ADHD and the number of sexual partners, the frequency of having sex with one's partner, and the frequency of masturbation.

Sexual dysfunctions

The Dutch study mentioned above, comparing 136 ADHD outpatients with two large surveys of the general Dutch population, used a validated self-report questionnaire, the Questionnaire for screening Sexual Dysfunctions, and a non-validated questionnaire, specially designed for the study, the Questionnaire for screening Sexual Problems. It found the rate of sexual dysfunction among both males and females with ADHD to be over twice the level in the general population. Men were four times as likely to report problems with orgasm, 50 percent more likely to report premature ejaculation, and over ten times as likely to report sexual aversion. Women were over three times as likely to report sexual excitement problems, over twice as likely to report problems with orgasm, and over three times as likely to report sexual aversion. No significant differences existed between patients treated with psychostimulants and those without such treatment.

A second study, which used a validated questionnaire to compare 79 ADHD participants with controls, found significant correlations between ADHD and aversion to sex for men but none for women.

On the other hand, a third study, comparing 32 subjects with ADHD with 293 controls, found no significant difference in the prevalence of sexual dysfunctions. It used clinical interviews to assess ADHD, and a non-validated questionnaire to assess sexual dysfunctions.

A fourth study took a very different approach. It compared 38 individuals with premature ejaculation to 27 controls. It found more than ten times the rate of ADHD symptoms among those with premature ejaculation than in the control group. Significantly, it measures premature ejaculation directly, with a stopwatch.

Conclusion

The authors concluded, "This article provides the first systematic review of sexual health among subjects with ADHD and shows that the quality of sexual health among subjects with ADHD seems poor," but acknowledged "several limitations to our review. There are only a few studies for the topics we reviewed. For many studies, the sample size was small. The methodology and measurement instruments differed, which created a potential bias."

Indeed, the study with the largest sample size found negligible associations between ADHD and sexual function, contradicting studies with small sample sizes.

Only four of the studies, all with small sample sizes, examined sexual dysfunctions. Two found strong associations with ADHD, one found none, and the fourth had mixed results.

This points to a compelling need for further research on ADHD and sexuality, with larger sample sizes.

January 26, 2022

The Use of EEGs in Diagnosing Various Levels of Adult ADHD

Adult ADHD: How do those with the full syndrome compare with those who are subthreshold on executive functioning, and are EEGs of any use in diagnosis?

German researchers study how useful EEG markers may or may not be in the treatment of full-spectrum ADHD as compared to sub-threshold ADHD.

Noting that to date, no study investigated potential behavioral and neural markers in adults with subthreshold ADHD as compared to adults with full syndrome ADHD and healthy controls, the German team of researchers at the University of Tübingen out to do just that, recruiting volunteers through flyers and advertisements.

Their ADHD sample consisted of 113 adults between 18 and 60 years of age (mean age 38) who fulfilled the DSM-IV-TR criteria of ADHD and were either not on medication or a steady dose of medication over the prior two months.

Another 46 participants (also mean age 38), whose symptoms did not reach the DSM-IV-TR criteria, were assigned to the group with subthreshold ADHD.

The control sample was comprised of 42 healthy participants (mean age 37).

Individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, epilepsy, or traumatic brain injury were excluded from the sample, as were those with current substance abuse or dependence.

All participants were German-speaking Caucasians. There were no significant differences in gender, age, education, or verbal/nonverbal intelligence among the three groups.

Participants first completed an online pre-screening, which was followed up with an interview to confirm the ADHD diagnosis.

ADHD impairs executive functions, "defined as the 'top-down' cognitive abilities for maintaining problem-solving skills to achieve future goals." The researchers explored three categories of executive functioning: 1) capacity for inhibition, "the ability to inhibit dominant, automatic, or prepotent responses when necessary- 2) ability to shift, enabling smooth switching between tasks or mental sets; and 3) ability to update, "updating and monitoring of working memory representations." Participants took a battery of neuropsychological tests to assess performance in each category.

Significant differences emerged between the group with ADHD and healthy controls in all measures except one: the STROOP Reading test. But there were no significant differences between participants suffering from subthreshold and full-syndrome ADHD. Nor were there any significant differences between those with subthreshold ADHD and healthy controls.

The researchers also recorded electroencephalograms(EEGs) for each participant. In healthy individuals, there is little to no association between resting-state EEG spectral power measures and executive functions. In individuals with ADHD, some studies have indicated increased theta-to-beta ratios, while others have found no significant differences. This study found no significant differences between the three groups.

The authors concluded, "The main results of the study can be summarized as follows: First, increased executive function deficits (in updating, inhibition, and shifting functions) could be observed in the full syndrome ADHD as compared to the healthy control group while, on the electrophysiological level, no differences in the theta to the beta ratio between these groups were found. Second, we observed only slightly impaired neuropsychological functions and no abnormal electrophysiological activity in the subthreshold ADHD sample. Taken together, our data suggest some practical uses of the assessment of objective cognitive markers but no additional value of examining electrophysiological characteristics in the diagnosis of subthreshold and full syndrome ADHD in adulthood."

They added, "These findings deeply question the value of including resting EEG markers into the diagnostic procedure and also have implications for standard neurofeedback protocols frequently used in the treatment of ADHD, where patients are trained to reduce their theta power while simultaneously increasing beta activity."

January 12, 2022

How Effective and Safe are Stimulant Medications for Older Adults?

How effective and safe are stimulant medications for older adults?

Older adults are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Psychostimulants may contribute to that risk through side effects, such as elevation of systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate.

On the other hand, smoking, substance abuse, obesity, and chronic sleep loss - all of which are associated with ADHD - are known to increase cardiovascular risk, and stimulant medications are an effective treatment for ADHD.

So how does this all shake out? A Dutch team of researchers sets out to explore this. Using electronic health records, they compared all 139 patients 55 years and older at PsyQ outpatient clinic, Program Adult ADHD, in The Hague. Because a principal aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of medication on cardiovascular functioning after first medication use, the 26 patients who had previously been prescribed ADHD medication were excluded from the study, leaving a sample size of 113.

The ages of participants ranged from 55 from 79, with a mean of 61. Slightly over half were women. At the outset, 13 percent had elevated systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure, 2 percent had an irregular heart rate, 15 percent had an abnormal electrocardiogram, and 29 percent had some combination of these (a "cardiovascular risk profile"), and 21 percent used antihypertensive medication.

Three out of four participants had at least e comorbid disorder. The most common are sleep disorders, affecting a quarter of participants, and unipolar mood disorders (depressive or more rarely manic episodes, but not both), also affecting a quarter of participants.

Twenty-four patients did not initiate pharmacological treatment. Of the 89 who received ADHD medication, 58 (65%) reported positive effects, and five experienced no effect. Thirty-eight (43%) discontinued ADHD medication while at the clinic due to lack of effect or to side effects. The most commonly reported positive effects were enhanced concentration, more overview, less restlessness, more stable mood, and having more energy. The principal reasons for discontinuing medication were anxiety/depression, cardiovascular complaints, and lack of effect.

Methylphenidate raised heart rate and lowered weight, but had no significant effect on systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Moreover, there was no significant correlation between methylphenidate dosage and any of these variables, nor between methylphenidate users taking hypertensive medication and those not taking such medication. There was no significant difference in systolic or diastolic blood pressure and heart rate before and after the use of methylphenidate among patients with the cardiovascular risk profiles.

Systolic blood pressure rose in ten out of 64 patients, with two experiencing an increase of at least 20 mmHg. It descended in five patients, with three having a decrease of at least 20 mmHg. Diastolic blood pressure rose by at least 10 mmHg in four patients, while dropping at least 10 mmHg in five others.

The authors concluded "that the use of a low dose of ADHD-medication is well tolerated and does not cause clinically significant cardiovascular changes among older adults with ADHD, even among those with an increased cardiovascular risk profile. Furthermore, our older patients experienced significant and clinically relevant improvement of their ADHD symptoms using stimulants, comparable with what is found among the younger age group," and that "the use of methylphenidate may be a relatively safe and effective treatment for older adults with ADHD, under the condition that all somatic complaints and especially cardiovascular parameters are monitored before and during pharmacological treatment."

Yet they cautioned that "due to the observational nature of the study and the lack of a control group, no firm conclusions can be drawn as to the effectiveness of the stimulants used. ... Important factors that were not systematically reported were the presence of other risk factors, such as smoking, substance (ab)use, aspirin use, and level of physical activity. In addition, the response to medication was not systematically measured"

December 21, 2021

What effect does adult ADHD have on sleep?

What effect does adult ADHD have on sleep?

A systematic review of previous studies show clear correlation between neurodevelopmental conditions and sleep-related issues.

A team of Spanish researchers performed a systematic search of the medical literature and found 28 studies that could be included in a series of meta-analyses of specific measures of sleep impairment. Except for a single meta-analysis with eight studies and 1,713 participants, however, all involved just three to five studies apiece, with anywhere from 121 to just over a thousand participants.

The team examined three sorts of measures:

·        Subjective measures, based on self-reporting by ADHD patients.
·        Polysomnography is an objective sleep study in which the subject is wired up and studied by technicians in a lab, usually overnight, monitoring multiple body functions, such as brain activity, eye movements, muscle activation, and heart rhythm.
·        Actigraphy, a non-invasive objective means of monitoring sleep. The subject wears an actimetry monitor, which is usually worn like a wristwatch on the non-dominant arm. Because it is minimally intrusive, the subject may wear it for a week or more while engaging in normal activities.

In the subjective measures, adults with ADHD generally reported substantially higher sleep impairments than non-ADHD controls. In the largest meta-analysis, covering eight studies and 1,713 participants, adults with ADHD reported moderately longer latency times for falling asleep than controls. In meta-analyses of five studies with between 834 and 1,130 participants, they also reported moderately poorer sleep quality, more frequent night awakenings, being moderately less rested upon awakening in the morning, and moderate-to-strongly greater daytime sleepiness. There was no significant difference in perceived sleep duration.

Polysomnography measures, on the other hand, failed to confirm these subjective impressions. No significant differences were found between adults with ADHD and controls for the initial latency period until onset of sleep, sleep efficiency, waking after the onset of sleep, total sleep time, stage one or stage two sleep, slow-wave sleep, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and latency period until REM sleep.

As mentioned above, polysomnography is conducted in lab settings, and therefore inevitably diverges from normal patterns of behavior. Actigraphy helps bridge that gap, by monitoring normal behavior, though with more limited types and precision of data analysis.

And indeed, a meta-analysis of four studies with 222 participants confirmed self-reports that sleep efficiency was moderate to strongly lower in adults with ADHD and that the latency period until the onset of sleep was markedly longer. On the other hand, it found no significant difference in true sleep.

The researchers also looked at prevalence statistics. Whereas the prevalence of sleep-onset insomnia in the general population has been reported in the range of 13 to 15 percent, a meta-analysis of four studies with 466 participants found fully two-thirds of adults with ADHD reporting insomnia, a greater than four-to-one ratio. Similarly, a meta-analysis of three studies with 458 participants found one-third reporting daytime sleepiness, which is twice the rate reported in the general population.

There was no sign of publication bias in any of these results. The authors cautioned, however, about the small number of studies involved, stating this "compromises the generalizability of the findings." Also, some studies included patients undergoing pharmacological treatment for ADHD, "increasing the risk of confounding results."

Moreover, "Sleep onset latency and sleep efficiency were not significantly impaired in the polysomnography, which was incongruent with the actigraphy results. This may be due to a difference in the evaluation context. Whereas polysomnography is considered the gold-standard measure to objectively assess sleep architecture, actigraphy shows a more ecological approach, with the evaluation being conducted in a more naturalistic context for a longer period. However, actigraphy has more environmental influence, which can compromise the data recorded and the interpretation of the results, whereas, in polysomnography, multiple variables can be controlled in the laboratory setting to increase the internal validity of the results. On the contrary, polysomnography studies can produce artifacts due to the unusual circumstances in the setting, so results may need to be interpreted with caution."

The authors concluded, "The results found in the present study show the relevance of addressing sleep concerns in adult populations diagnosed with neurodevelopmental conditions."

December 17, 2021

Direct medical costs of adult incident ADHD in Germany

Direct medical costs of adult incident ADHD in Germany

A team of German researchers explored five million member records from a database that tracks more than sixty nationwide statutory health insurance programs. The database closely tracks the characteristics of the overall German population.

This was a longitudinal cohort study, tracking individuals first diagnosed with adult ADHD between 2013 and 2017. Anyone who was not continuously insured during this period was excluded, as were those who died, plus anyone older than 55 to prevent bias from high morbidity in the top age brackets.

The study team used the database to add up direct healthcare costs, including inpatient care, outpatient care, psychotherapy, medical aids and remedies, medication, and sickness benefits. In Germany, sickness benefits kick in after more than six weeks of continuous inability to work.

The study tracked data within a window extending both four years back and four years forward from the initial adult ADHD diagnosis.

The resulting study cohort consisted of 2,380 persons between 18 and 55, initially diagnosed with ADHD at an average age of 35. Sixty percent were male.

One-third were prescribed ADHD medication upon diagnosis. Four years later, only one-eighth were still on medication.

Almost two-thirds received psychotherapy, dropping to under a third in succeeding years.

During the year following diagnosis, average healthcare costs totaled about €4,000 per individual. For those who initiated ADHD medication, the average cost was just over €5,400, and for those who did not it was almost €3,500.

The authors concluded, "An important finding of the present investigation is that in the year of initial diagnosis, less than one-third of individuals received any prescription of ADHD-specific medication, and only a fourth got at least two prescriptions. At the same time, almost two-thirds of individuals received psychotherapy in the year of ADHD[adult ADHD] diagnosis. In about one-third of individuals, psychotherapy had been initiated already before a diagnosis of ADHD, presumably for treatment of comorbid disorders. ... In current German guidelines, ADHD-specific medication is recommended as the first choice ... Apparently, despite the vast body of evidence for the beneficial effects of ADHD-specific medication, at least in the short-term, and in contrast to the recommendations of previous and current guidelines, stimulant medication is only reluctantly prescribed in newly identified adults with ADHD. ... Overall, our findings suggest that significant deficiencies may currently exist concerning the reality of healthcare for ADHD in Germany, and that guideline recommendations are not yet comprehensively implemented in everyday routine care."

December 7, 2021

Safety of Long-term Methylphenidate Treatment of Adults with ADHD

Safety of long-term methylphenidate treatment of adults with ADHD

The Comparison of Methylphenidate and Psychotherapy in adult ADHD Study (COMPAS) was a prospective, randomized multicenter clinical trial, comparing methylphenidate (MPH) with placebo in combination with cognitive-behavioral group psychotherapy or (GPT) individual clinical management (CM), the latter two being active controls. This was a year-long trial.

The German study team randomly assigned 433 participants with adult ADHD to each of the four study groups. As this was a 2 x 2 matrix trial, each study group included both one pharmacological intervention (MPH or placebo) and one psychological intervention (GPT or CM).

GPT included mindfulness training, skills for stress management, emotion regulation, and time management as well as behavioral analyses. CM sessions focused on participants' current concerns and medication.

As is usual in such trials, the number of participants decreased throughout the study as some individuals dropped out. At 13 weeks, 337 participants were still taking their study medication.

Both MPH and placebo were started at 10 mg doses, then up-titrated depending on clinical response. After 13 weeks, the mean MPH dose had risen to 50 mg, and the mean dose of placebo to 58 mg.

Safety

Among those taking MPH, 96 percent of participants reported at least one adverse event. Among those on placebo, the equivalent figure was 88 percent.

The principal adverse events occurring significantly more frequently in the MPH group were decreased appetite (22 vs. 3.8 %), dry mouth (15 vs. 4.8 %), palpitations (13 vs. 3.3 %), gastrointestinal infection (11 vs. 4.8 %), agitation (11 vs. 3.3 %), restlessness (10 vs. 2.9 %), excessive sweating, rapid heartbeat, and weight decrease (all 6.3 vs. 1.9 %).

The only adverse event that occurred significantly more frequently in the placebo group was a temporary loss of consciousness caused by a fall in blood pressure (2.4 vs. 0%).

Serious adverse events were infrequent in both groups, affecting 7.3 percent of those in the MPH group and 4.3 percent of those in the placebo group. The difference between groups was not statistically significant. There were no deaths.

While patients on MPH lost an average of 1.2 Kg during the year, those on placebo remained constant (gained 0.3 Kg). Changes in blood pressure were negligible in both groups. Average heart rate rose by 3 beats per minute in the MPH group, versus a 1 beat per minute decline in the placebo group. There were no significant differences in clinically relevant electrocardiogram abnormalities between the two treatment groups.

Turning to psychological interventions, 90 percent of participants in the GPT group and 94 percent in the CM group experienced at least one adverse event. Differences between the two groups were not statistically significant. Serious adverse events occurred in 3.9% of the GPT participants and 7.7 percent of the CN participants, but again the difference between groups was not statistically significant. There were no clinically relevant changes in weight, blood pressure, or heart rates in these groups throughout the study.

The study team found no modulating effects of either form of psychological treatment on the distribution of adverse events under MPH and placebo treatment.

The authors concluded, "adverse events were found more frequently in patients receiving MPH compared to placebo and were mostly attributable to the centrally stimulating and sympathomimetic action of MPH, including agitation, restlessness, dry mouth, decreased appetite, palpitations, tachycardia [rapid heartbeat], and hyperhidrosis [excessive sweating]. About these adverse events, a causal relationship with MPH seems likely, supported by both the pharmacological effects of MPH as well as previous safety data. ... It is important to note that patients receiving MPH in COMPAS significantly profited from the medication about the reduction of ADHD symptom load, thus the risks of adverse events have to be weighed against the clear benefits. ... Premature termination of MPH due to an adverse event as major reason occurred in less than 10 % of patients and was not statistically significantly different from placebo."

November 21, 2021

Safety and Efficacy of Long-term Use of Guanfacine for Adults with ADHD

Safety and efficacy of long-term use of guanfacine for adults with ADHD

Guanfacine extended-release(GXR) is a non-stimulant α2A-adrenergic receptor agonist, approved worldwide for ADHD in children and adolescents.

A Japanese research team set out to explore the long-term administration of once-daily GXR in adults with ADHD over a year of treatment. Their primary objective was to evaluate the safety, and the secondary objective was to evaluate efficacy.

This was an open-label trial. Open-label trials are the opposite of double-blind trials. In a double-blind trial, neither the researchers nor the participants know what treatment they participants are receiving. In an open-label trial, on the other hand, both the researchers and participants know what treatment the participant is receiving, which can introduce significant bias. These studies are therefore at the lowest rung in the evidentiary base.

It is worth noting, however, that the risk of bias would be primarily for efficacy, and the primary aim of the trial was to evaluate safety.

The trial was funded by the manufacturer, but preregistered, a way of assuring that results would be released regardless of the outcome.

The study population consisted of 191 ADHD patients 18 and older at 71 locations in Japan. There was no control population. The 50-week flexible titrated dosing treatment period was followed by a 2-week period over which doses were gradually reduced, and then a one-week follow-up period. That means the trial covered an entire year. Of the enrolled patients, 67 dropped out, mostly due to adverse events, leaving 124 patients after the trial.

A total of 830 treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs) were reported by 180 patients. One in five patients (34)discontinued treatment due to adverse events. The most commonly reported adverse events were somnolence, thirst, nasopharyngitis, decreased blood pressure, postural dizziness, bradycardia (abnormally slow heartbeat), malaise, constipation, and dizziness. Except for nasopharyngitis, all were considered related to the medication. There were two serious adverse events, one unrelated to the medication, the other a supraventricular tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rhythm arising from improper electrical activity in the upper part of the heart) in a patient simultaneously medicated for a preexisting condition. The patient recovered after treatment and discontinuation of GXR.

The main TEAEs resulting in Discontinuation were somnolence (nine patients), blood pressure reduction (eight patients), malaise (six patients), and bradycardia (four patients, with only one case considered severe), and postural dizziness (three patients) or dizziness(three patients).

Significant reductions in ADHD scores and improvements in executive functioning were measured across the study population following a year's GXR treatment. Again, this was not the primary aim of the trial, and double-blinded randomized controlled trials are the gold standard.

The authors concluded that "there were no new or unexpected safety concerns" and "patients who received dose-optimized GXR had improvements in multiple aspects of ADHD, including symptoms, QoL [Quality of Life], and executive functioning," but acknowledged, "There was a potential for observer bias because of the open-label nature of the study, and the findings may not be representative of real-world settings because patients with psychiatric or cardiovascular comorbidities, which are common in patients with ADHD, were excluded. In addition, there was a potential bias favoring safety and efficacy for continuing patients because those who discontinued owing to adverse events or lack of efficacy were not eligible for inclusion."

October 23, 2023

How prevalent is ADHD in older adults?

How prevalent is ADHD in older adults?

An international team of researchers recently published the first meta-analysis of studies examining the prevalence of ADHD in older adults, with a particular focus on those fifty and older. They also looked at rates of treatment.

Since clinical evaluations a reconsidered the gold standard in diagnosing ADHD, and validated rating scales are considered more of a preliminary screening tool, the team distinguished between the two and ran two separate meta-analyses:

·        Using validated ADHD rating scales. Combining nine studies with just over 32,000 participants, the team reported a prevalence of 2.2 percent. However, since the studies were not uniform in fixing the minimum end of their age ranges, constraining the results to persons 50 and older lowered the prevalence to 1.5 percent.

·        Using clinical diagnoses. Combining seven studies with 11.7 million participants, they found a crude prevalence of 0.23 percent, which, after removing persons under 50, was adjusted to 0.19 percent. Limiting the results to the use of national registries further reduced the prevalence to 0.14 percent.

That means there's an order of magnitude (tenfold) difference between the two estimates of prevalence.

Recognizing that clinical diagnoses are the preferred means of diagnosis, the authors wrote, "methodological aspects need to be considered when interpreting the gap between the pooled prevalence estimates based on different assessment methods. The estimates from studies based on research diagnosis [ADHD rating scales] may overestimate the prevalence of ADHD in older adults. ... Thus, screening assessment tools for ADHD should only be used as the first step of a more comprehensive clinical ADHD assessment."

On the other hand, the authors also see an indication "that clinicians, to some extent, might fail to recognize and properly treat ADHD symptoms in older adults. Clinical presentation of ADHD may change with age, with inattentive symptoms becoming more prevalent than hyperactivity and impulsivity."

The team also performed a third meta-analysis, to look at ADHD pharmacological treatment rates among older adults. For this one, they pooled four studies encompassing over 9.2 million persons. After constraining the results to those fifty and older, they found a prevalence of only 0.02%. This points to a wide gap between rates of diagnosis and rates of treatment, even after noting that only one of the studies included data on non-pharmacological treatment.

November 1, 2023

Adult ADHD: Diagnoses Versus Undiagnosed

How do undiagnosed but symptomatic adults compare with those diagnosed with ADHD?

The study team began with a representative sample of 69,972U. S. adults aged 18 years or older who completed the 2012 and 2013 U.S. National Health and Wellness Survey. These adults were invited to complete the Validate Attitudes and Lifestyle Issues in Depression, ADHD, and Troubles with Eating(VALIDATE) study, which included 1) a customized questionnaire designed to collect data on sociodemographic and clinical characteristics and lifestyle, and2) several validated work productivity, daily functioning, self-esteem, and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) questionnaires. Of the 22,937 respondents, 444 had been previously diagnosed with ADHD, and 1,055 reported ADHD-like symptoms but had no previous clinical diagnosis.

There were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of age, education, income, health insurance, and most comorbid disorders. But those who had not been previously diagnosed were significantly more likely to be first-generation Americans (p<.001), nonwhite (p<.001), unemployed (p=.024), or suffer from depression, insomnia, or hypertension.

After matching the two groups for sociodemographic characteristics and comorbid conditions, covariate comparisons were made between 436 respondents diagnosed with ADHD and 867 previously undiagnosed respondents. Among respondents who were employed, diagnosed individuals registered a mean work productivity loss of 29% as opposed to 49% for the previously undiagnosed (p<.001). They also registered a 37% level of activity impairment versus a 53% level among the undiagnosed(p<.001). On the Sheehan Disability Scale, which ranges from 0 (no impairment) to 30 (highly impaired), the diagnosed group had a mean of 10, as opposed to a mean of 15 for the undiagnosed (p<.001). Diagnosed respondents also significantly outperformed undiagnosed ones on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (19 versus 15, on a scale of 0 to 30, p<.001), and on two quality-of-life scales (p<.001).

Applying a linear regression mixed model to the matched sets, the diagnosed still scored 16 points better than the undiagnosed on the WPA I: GH Productivity Loss scale (p<.001), 14 points better on the WPA I: GH Activity Impairment scale (p<.001), 4.5 points better on the Sheehan Disability Scale(p<.001), almost 4 points on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (p<.0001), with comparable gains on the two quality-of-life scales (p<.001 and p<.0001).

The authors concluded, This comparison revealed that individuals who had been diagnosed with ADHD were more likely to experience better functioning, HRQoL [health related quality-of-life], and self-esteem than those with symptomatic ADHD. This result appears to be robust, withstanding several levels of increasingly rigorous statistical adjustment. That points to substantial benefits from the treatment that follows a diagnosis of adult ADHD.

September 4, 2021

Stigma: Public attitudes towards children and adults with ADHD

Stigma: Public attitudes towards children and adults with ADHD

To gauge the extent of stigma towards persons with ADHD, a European research team hired a company specialized in market and social research to conduct a poll of some five thousand randomly selected Germans. Just over a thousand completed the interview, representing a response rate of only one in five. The team acknowledged, “Although non-responder bias has to be considered to be important, ethical considerations prohibited the collection of any detailed information on non-respondents.” The sample had slightly more women and elderly persons, and a higher average level of educational attainment relative to the German population as a whole. Sampling weights were used to compensate for these discrepancies.

The poll relied on computer-assisted telephone interviews. Interviews began with prerecorded vignettes of either a 12-year-old child or 35-year-oldadult exhibiting core symptoms of ADHD (such as “careless mistakes in schoolwork,” “does not follow through on instructions,” “easily distracted by extraneous stimuli”, “loses things”, “leaves his place in the classroom or when sitting at the dining table”). Half of those interviewed were presented with child vignettes, and half with adult vignettes. The gender of the person described varied randomly.

On a scale of one to five, respondents were asked to indicate levels of agreement with two statements: 1. ‘‘Basically, we are all sometimes like this person. It’s just a question of how pronounced this state is.’’ 2. “All in all, the problems of Robert / Anne are abnormal.” For both child and adult vignettes, two out of three respondents agreed that “we are all sometimes like this person.” One in three respondents considered the problems depicted in the child vignettes as abnormal. That dropped to one in four in the adult vignettes.

Next, respondents were asked whether they ever had a problem like this, and whether someone among their family or close friends ever had to deal with such a problem. For both vignettes, one in four acknowledged having had a problem like this, and half said a close friend or family member had such a problem.

On the assumption that “negative emotional reactions are an important consequence of negative stereotypes, leading to separation, discrimination and status loss,” respondents were probed for their specific emotional reactions. “I feel annoyed,” “I react angrily,” and “provokes my incomprehension” were interpreted as indicating varying levels of anger.“Provokes fear” and “Makes me feel insecure” were seen as indicating fear. “I feel uncomfortable” was viewed as indicating somewhere between fear and anger. On the other hand, “I feel the need to help,” “I feel pity,” and “I feel sympathy” were interpreted as “pro-social” responses.

Pro-social reactions were by far the most common. Over two-thirds felt a need to help a child, and over half to help an adult, in such a situation. In both instances, almost half felt sympathy, and a half or more felt pity. On the other hand, a quarter of respondents in each case felt annoyed, and just under one in five felt uncomfortable. Almost one in seven reacted angrily to the child vignette, and almost one in six to the adult vignette. Fear was the least frequent emotional reaction.

In the case of adults, respondents were also asked about their willingness to accept the person described in the vignette in seven social situations:

·        Working together
·        As a neighbor
·        Marrying into the family
·        Introducing to a friend
·        Renting a room
·        Recommending for a job
old adult·        Taking care of chi

While three out of four respondents were willing to accept such persons as co-workers, only one in three would recommend them for a job. Two out of three would accept such persons as neighbors, and almost as many to marry into the family. Three out of five would very willingly introduce such persons to friends. Slightly over half would rent a room to them. But less than one in three would be willing to have such individuals take care of their own children.

Older respondents were more likely to see the problems as“abnormal” and to seek greater social distance. Women, and respondents with higher levels of education, were less likely to see the problems as abnormal and more likely to respond in pro-social ways.

Though showing most Germans to be accepting of persons with ADHD, these findings still indicate a significant degree of stigma, though less than for other psychiatric conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, or alcohol dependence.

August 27, 2021

Driving, Safety, and ADHD

How to Improve Driving Safety for Teens and Adults With ADHD

Drivers with ADHD are far more likely to be involved in crashes, to be at fault in crashes, to be in severe crashes, and to be killed in crashes. The more severe the ADHD symptoms, the higher the risk. Moreover, ADHD is often accompanied by comorbid conditions such as oppositional-defiant disorder, depression, and anxiety that further increase the risk.

What can be done to reduce this risk? A group of experts has offered the following consensus recommendations:

·        Use stimulant medications. While there is no reliable evidence on whether-stimulant medications are of any benefit for driving, there is solid evidence that stimulant medications are effective in reducing risk. But there is also a “rebound effect” in many individuals after the medication wears off, in which performance becomes worse than it had been before medication. It is therefore important to time the taking of medication so that its period of effectiveness corresponds with driving times. If one has to drive right after waking up, it makes sense to take a rapid-acting form. The same holds for late-night driving that may require a quick boost.
·        Use a stick shift vehicle wherever possible. Stick shifts make drivers pay closer attention than automatic transmissions. The benefits of alertness are most notable in city traffic. But using a stick shift is far less beneficial in highway driving, where shifting is less frequent.
·        Avoid cruise control. Highways can be monotonous, making drivers more prone to boredom and distraction. That is even more true for those with ADHD, so it is best to keep cruise control turned off.
·        Avoid alcohol. Drinking and driving is a bad idea for everyone, but, once again, it’s even worse for those with ADHD. Parents should consider the no-questions-asked policy of either picking up their teenager anytime and anywhere or setting up an account with a ride-sharing service.
·        Place the smartphone out of reach and hearing. Cell phone use is as about as likely to impair as alcohol. Hands-free devices only reduce this risk moderately, because they continue to distract. Texting can be deadly. Sending a short text or emoticon can be the equivalent of driving 100 yards with one’s eyes closed. Either turn on Do Not Disturb mode or, for even greater effectiveness, place the smartphone in the trunk.
·        Make use of automotive performance monitors. These can keep track of maximum speeds and sudden acceleration and braking, to verify that a teenager is not engaging in risky behaviors.
·        Take advantage of “graduated driver’s licensing laws” wherever available. These laws forbid the presence of peers in the vehicle for the first several (for example, six) months of driving. Parents can extend that period for teenagers with ADHD, or set it as a condition in states that lack such laws.
·        Encourage practicing after obtaining a learner’s permit. Teenagers with ADHD generally require more practice than those without. A “pre-drive checklist” can be a good place to start. For example: check the gas, check the mirrors, make sure the view through the windows is unobstructed, put your cell phone in Do not disturb mode and place it out of reach, put on a seatbelt, and scan for obstacles.
·        Consider outsourcing. Look for a driving school with a professional to teach good driving skills and habits.

Experts do not agree on whether to delay licensing for those with ADHD. On the one hand, teenagers with ADHD are 3-4 years behind in the development of brain areas responsible for executive functions that help control impulses and better guide behavior. Delaying licensing can reduce risk by about 20 percent. On the other hand, teens with ADHD are more likely to drive without a license, and no one wants to encourage that, however inadvertently. Moreover, graduated driver’s licensing laws only have a legal effect on teens who get their licenses at the customary age.

August 13, 2021

How Extensive Is Perceived Discrimination Among Adults With ADHD?

How extensive is perceived discrimination among adults with ADHD?

An international team of mental health professionals used a nationally representative sample of English adults over age 16 to explore this question. Of 13,671 households selected, 7,461 were a little more than half participated.

Participants used the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS) Screener to assess symptoms of ADHD on a scale ranging from 0 to 24. Those scoring ≥ 14 were considered as having high levels of ADHD symptoms. They also responded to a computer-assisted self-interview that asked, "Have you been unfairly treated in the last 12 months … because of your mental health," requiring a yes or no answer.

The raw data showed an exponential relationship between levels of ADHD symptoms and mental health discrimination. Respondents scoring0-9 on the ASRS reported negligible discrimination (prevalence of 0.3%).  Among those scoring 10-13, the prevalence was 2.3%, rising to 5.5% of those with scores in the 14-17 range, and 18.8% among those in the 18-24 range.

After adjusting for sociodemographic variables (sex, age, ethnicity, marital status, educational attainment, and income), those with high levels of ADHD symptoms were nearly 10 times more likely to have experienced discrimination than others.  After adjusting for other psychopathology and stressful life events, this increased risk fell to 2.8.

The authors concluded, "This is an important finding given that mental health discrimination has been associated with detrimental consequences in individuals with mental health disorders and therefore might also be a factor in the negative outcomes that have been noted in adults with ADHD/ADHD symptomatology. As ADHD continues to be underdiagnosed and untreated in adults, the results of this study highlight the importance of identifying and treating these individuals and suggest that interventions to inform the public about ADHD may be important for reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with this condition."

August 11, 2021

Liquid Medication Options for ADHD Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Long-Acting Liquid Methylphenidate for Treating ADHD in Intellectually Capable Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Treating ADHD With Methylphenidate in Adults With Autism

A team from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a six-week open-label trial of liquid-formulation extended-release methylphenidate (MPH-ER) to treat ADHD in adults with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HF-ASD). ASD is a lifelong disorder with deficits in social communication and interaction and restricted, repetitive behaviors. Roughly half of those diagnosed with ASD also are diagnosed with ADHD.

This was the first stimulant trial in adults with both ASD and ADHD. There were twelve males and three female participants, all with moderate to severe ADHD, and in their twenties, with IQ scores of at least 85.

The use of a liquid formulation enabled doses to be raised very gradually, starting with a daily dose of 5 mg(1mL) and titrating up to 60 mg over the first three weeks, then maintaining that level through the sixth week. Participants were reevaluated for ADHD symptoms every week during the six-week trial. The severity of ASD was assessed at the start, midpoint, and conclusion of the trial, as were other psychiatric symptoms.

Before the trial, researchers agreed on a combination of targets on two clinician-rated scoring systems that would have to be reached for treatment to be considered successful. One is a score of 2 or less on the CGI-S, a measure of illness severity, with scores ranging from 1 (normal, not at all ill) to 7 (most extremely ill). The other is a reduction of at least 30 percent in the AIS RS score, which combines each of 18 symptoms of ADHD on a severity grid (0=not present; 3=severe; overall minimum score: 0; overall maximum score: 54).

After the trial, twelve of the fifteen patients (80 percent) met the preset conditions for success. Fully fourteen (93 percent) saw a ≥ 30 percent reduction in their AISRS score, while twelve scored ≤ 2 on illness severity.

However, when using the patient-rated ASRS scoring system, only five (33 percent) saw a ≥ 30 percent reduction in ADHD severity.

Thirteen participants (87percent) reported at least one adverse event, and nine (60 percent) reported two or more. One reported a serious adverse event (attempted suicide) in a patient with multiple prior attempts. Because the attempt was not deemed due to medication, they continued and completed the trial. Seven participants experienced titration-limiting adverse events (headaches, palpitations, jaw pain, and insomnia). Headache was most frequent (53%), followed by insomnia and anxiety(33% each), and decreased appetite (27%).

During the trial, weight significantly decreased, while pulse significantly increased. There were no significant differences in other vital and cardiovascular measurements.

The authors concluded, "this OLT of short-term MPH-ER therapy documents that acute treatment with MPH-ER in young adults with ASD was associated with significant improvement in ADHD symptoms, mirroring the typically-expected magnitude of response observed in adults with only ADHD. Treatment with MPH-ER was well-tolerated, though associated with a higher than expected frequency of adverse events."

They also cautioned, "The results of this study need to be considered in light of some methodological limitations. This was an open-label study; therefore, assessments were not blind to treatment. We did not employ a placebo control group and, therefore, cannot separate the effects of treatment from time or placebo effects. ... firmer conclusions regarding the safety and efficacy of MPH-ER for the treatment of ADHD in HF-ASD populations await results from larger, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials."

August 7, 2021

How to Identify ADHD in Adults With Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

How to identify ADHD in adults with alcohol use disorder (AUD)

ADHD is far more prevalent among persons with AUD (roughly20 percent) than it is in the general population. The most accurate way of identifying ADHD is through structured clinical interviews. Given that this is not feasible in routine clinical settings, ADHD self-report scales offer a less reliable but much less resource-intensive alternative. Could the latter be calibrated in a way that would yield diagnoses that better correspond with the former?

A German team compared the outcomes of both methods on 404 adults undergoing residential treatment for AUD. All were abstinent while undergoing evaluations. First, to obtain reliable ADHD diagnoses, each underwent the Diagnostic Interview for ADHD in Adults, DIVA. If DIVA indicated probable ADHD, two expert clinicians conducted successive follow-up interviews. ADHD was only diagnosed when both experts concurred with the DIVA outcome.

Participants were then asked to use two adult ADHD self-report scales, the six-item Adult ADHD Self Report Scale v1.1 (ASRS) and the 30-item Conner's Adult ADHD Rating Scale (CAARS-S-SR). The outcomes were then compared with the expert interview diagnoses.

Using established cut-off values for the ASRS, less than two-thirds of patients known to have ADHD were scored as having ADHD by the test. In other words, there was a very high rate of false negatives. Lowering the cut-off to a sum score ≥ 11 resulted in an incorrect diagnosis of more than seven out of eight. But the rate of false positives shared to almost two in five. Similarly, the CAARS-S-SR had its greatest sensitivity (ability to accurately identify those with ADHD) at the lowest threshold of ≥ 60, but at a similarly high cost in false positives (more than a third).

The authors found it was impossible to come anywhere near the precision of the expert clinical interviews. Nevertheless, they judged the best compromise to be to use the lowest thresholds on both tests and then require positive determinations from both. That led to successfully diagnosing more than three out of four individuals known to have ADHD, with a false positive rate of just over one in five.

Using this combination of the two self-reporting questionnaires with lower thresholds, they suggest, could substantially reduce the under-diagnosis of ADHD in alcohol-dependent patients.

August 5, 2021

Pharmacotherapy and ADHD in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

How effective is pharmacotherapy of ADHD in adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is frequently comorbid with ADHD. Among adults with ADHD, as many as half are reported to also have ASD.

A Dutch team set out to answer two questions:


1)    Do adults with ADHD and comorbid ASD experience less effectiveness in pharmacological treatment for ADHD than adults with only ADHD
2)    Do adults with ADHD and comorbid ASD experience different or more severe side effects of pharmacological treatment for ADHD than adults with only ADHD, as measured in side effect scores, blood pressure, heart rate, and weight?

This was a retrospective study, using well-documented medical records, of the effects of drug treatment with methylphenidate (MPH), dexamphetamine (DEX), atomoxetine (ATX), bupropion, or modafinil.

The researchers compared 60 adults with comorbid ASD and ADHD to 226 adults with only ADHD. ADHD symptoms were scored using the Conner's ADHD Rating Scale: Self Report-Short Version (CAA RS: S-S). Side effects of ADHD medication were measured using either a 13-item or 20-item checklist with 4-point scales for item response. Researchers also tracked changes in body weight, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Following treatment, ADHD symptoms among the comorbid group declined by a quarter, and among the ADHD-only group by almost a third. There was no significant difference between men and women. Controlling for age, gender, and ADHD subtype, a comorbid diagnosis of ASD also did not significantly affect ADHD symptom reduction.

Turning to side effects, in the ADHD+ASD group, there were significant increases in decreased appetite and weight loss, and decreases in agitation, anxiety, and sadness/unhappiness. In the ADHD-only group, there were significant increases in decreased appetite, weight loss, and dry mouth, and decreases in sleeping disorder, nervousness, agitation, anxiety, and sadness/unhappiness. Yet there were no significant differences between the two groups. Side effects increased and decreased similarly in both. Likewise, there were no significant differences between the groups in changes in heart rate and blood pressure. The only significant difference in medication dosage was for bupropion, which was higher in the ADHD+ASD group, though without any sign of the difference in side effects.

The authors concluded that this retrospective study "showed pharmacological treatment of adults with diagnoses of ADHD and ASD to be just as successful as the pharmacological treatment of adults with only ADHD," but cautioned that "randomized controlled trial should be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness and possible side effects of pharmacological treatment for ADHD in patients with ASD more reliably."

August 3, 2021

Social and Self-Stigmatization in Adults with ADHD

Social and Self-Stigmatization in Adults with ADHD

A German team recruited 104 adults with ADHD at both inpatient and outpatient ADHD clinics, and from ADHD self-help groups. Just under two-thirds were being treated with ADHD drugs, most with methylphenidate.


Just under a quarter reported high internalized stigma. Two in five reported high levels of alienation, meaning a sense of "not being a fully functioning, valuable member of society." Three in ten reported high levels of social withdrawal.


On the other hand, only two participants reported high levels of stereotype endorsement, meaning personal acceptance of stereotypes associated with mental illness. And more than two-thirds reported high stigma resistance, meaning they were internally resistant to stigmatization. Thus, while most were free of significant internalized stigma, a still substantial minority were not.


Most of the participants expected to be discriminated against and treated unfairly by employers, colleagues at work, neighbors, and teachers should they reveal that they have ADHD. Relatively few expected to be discriminated against by health professionals, family, and friends. Almost half expected discrimination if they confided to strangers they were dating.


Over two-thirds of participants reported they had encountered public stereotypes concerning ADHD. But, on balance, they rated these at low levels of intensity. Nevertheless, among those perceiving such stereotypes, eight out of nine sensed some degree of public doubt about the validity of ADHD as a genuine ailment ("ADHD does not exist in adults"), and three out of four had at some point encountered the argument that "ADHD is invented by drug companies." More than four out of five had heard allegations that ADHD results from bad parenting, and almost three in four had heard the claim that it results from watching too much television or playing too many video games.


These data call for more education of the public about the nature and causes of ADHD. Information reduces stigmatization, so the widespread dissemination of the facts about ADHD is warranted.

April 8, 2024

To what extent does ADHD affect sleep in adults, and in what ways?

To what extent does ADHD affect sleep in adults, and in what ways?

We are only beginning to explore how ADHD affects sleep in adults. A team of European researchers recently published the first meta-analysis on the subject, drawing on thirteen studies with 1,439 participants. They examined both subjective evaluations from sleep questionnaires and objective measurements from actigraphy and polysomnography. However, due to differences among the studies, only two to seven could be combined for any single topic, generally with considerably fewer participants (88 to 873).


Several patterns emerged. Looking at results from sleep questionnaires, they found that adults with ADHD were far more likely to report general sleep problems (very large SMD effect size 1.55). Getting more specific, they were also more likely to report frequent night awakenings(medium effect size 0.56), taking longer to get to sleep (medium-to-large effect size 0.67), lower sleep quality (medium-to-large effect size 0.69), lower sleep efficiency (medium effect size 0.55), and feeling sleepy during the daytime(large effect size 0.75).

There was little to no sign of publication bias, though considerable heterogeneity on all but night awakenings and sleep quality.


Actigraphy readings confirmed some subjective reports. On average, adults with ADHD took longer to get to sleep (large effect size 0.80) and had lower sleep efficiency (medium-to-large effect size 0.68). They also spent more time awake (small-to-medium effect size 0.40). There was little to no sign of publication bias and there was little heterogeneity among studies.


None of the polysomnography measurements, however, found any significant differences between adults with and without ADHD. All effect sizes were small (under 0.20), and none came close to being statistically significant.


There were four instances where measurement criteria overlapped those from actigraphy and self-reporting, with varying degrees of agreement and divergence. There was no significant difference in total sleep time, matching findings from both the questionnaires and actigraphy. On percent time spent awake, polysomnography found little to no effect size with no statistical significance, whereas actigraphy found a small-to-medium effect size that did not quite reach significance, and self-reporting came up with a medium effect size that was statistically significant. Sleep onset latency and sleep efficiency, for which questionnaires and actigraphy found medium-to-large effects, the polysomnography measurements found little to none, with no statistical significance.


Polysomnography found no significant differences in stage 1-sleep, stage 2-sleep, slow-wave sleep, and REM sleep. Except for slow-wave sleep, there was no sign of publication bias. Heterogeneity was generally minimal.


One problem with the extant literature is that many studies did not take medication status into account.

The authors concluded, "future studies should be conducted in medicatio- naïve samples of adults with and without ADHD matched for comorbid psychiatric disorders and other relevant demographic variables."


In summary, these findings provide robust evidence that ADHD adults report a variety of sleep problems.  In contrast, objective demonstrations of sleep abnormalities have not been consistently demonstrated.   More work in medication-naïve samples is needed to confirm these conclusions.

July 24, 2021

ADHD and Adulthood Unhappiness

ADHD is Associated with Significantly Higher Probability of Unhappiness in Adults

An international team of researchers sets out to measure the association between ADHD symptoms and self-evaluations of happiness among adults in the general population of the U.K. A nationally representative sample of 7,274 adults was asked to rate their happiness on a three-point scale. They also used the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS) Screener to assess ADHD symptom levels.
Higher ADHD symptom levels were found to be inversely associated with self-assessments of happiness. Adults with the lowest ADHD symptoms (0-9 on theaters) were roughly twice as likely to report being happy as those scoring10-13, five times as happy as those scoring 14-17, and ten times as happy as those with the highest ADHD symptom scores (18-24). These results were highly significant.
That did not mean that most adults with high ADHD symptom scores were unhappy. Even among those with the highest ADHD symptom scores (18-24), a majority (58 percent) reported being either "fairly happy" or "very happy." Butonly11 a percent of that group reported being "very happy," as opposed to 44 percent of those scoring the lowest on ADHD symptoms.
While the association is clear and strong, establishing causation is trickier. As the authors acknowledge, "as the symptoms associated with ADHD are similar to, and sometimes overlap, with those that are commonly observed in individuals with other psychiatric disorders ... a screening instrument to identify ADHD symptoms may have had limited power to distinguish 'pure' ADHD and cases with ADHD symptoms related to other psychiatric disorders." Emotional instability and anxiety disorder each mediated more than a third of the association between ADHD and unhappiness, and depression almost a third. These could have been brought about by ADHD and could also have been produced by other psychiatric disorders.  Because the ASRS is not a diagnostic instrument, the authors concluded that "the results of this study should be considered provisional, until if, and when, they are replicated in those with a clinical diagnosis of ADHD with and without comorbid disorders."

July 6, 2021

Bad eating habits in adults with ADHD

Bad eating habits in adults with ADHD

An Israeli team compared eating habits and body mass index(BMI) in adults with and without ADHD. They recruited 60 students from Hebrew University in Jerusalem between 20 and 30 years old. To avoid bias due to particular diets, the authors excluded vegetarians and vegans, as well as persons with chronic diseases that require altered diets, such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases, and chronic kidney disease. Twenty-nine of the participants had been diagnosed with ADHD.
All participants filled out the Food Frequency Questionnaire, a semi-quantitative scale querying about 119 food items. Based on World Health Organization guidelines, it distinguished between "healthy" items (such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and minimally processed foods)and "unhealthy" ones (such as cookies, processed meats, and other processed foods). The data obtained from the questionnaires were linked to a nutrient database to estimate daily nutrient intake. BMI was calculated from heights and weights reported by the students.
No significant differences were found between the two groups for servings, calories, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Yet, the ratio of healthy to unhealthy portions was significantly higher among controls than among those with ADHD. Those without ADHD consumed about a quarter more servings of healthy food and about a quarter fewer servings of unhealthy food.
On average, BMI levels were about 13 percent higher in participants with ADHD than among those without, meaning they were significantly more likely to be overweight. This finding is consistent with many prior studies.
The authors concluded, "Although participants in both groups consumed similar amounts of servings, calories, and nutrients, students with ADHD reported eating lower amounts of healthy food and higher amounts of unhealthy food. The results suggest that ADHD is not associated with general overeating, but with a biased proportion of unhealthy versus healthy food consumption."
They also recognized limitations to their study. One was a relatively small sample size and the fact that all participants were recruited from a single university. Another is that they did not try to fully evaluate the effects of medication, other than to note the absence of significant differences in food choices between those who used medication regularly and those who used it only occasionally. An unrecognized limitation was the exclusive reliance on self-reporting, both for food consumption, weight, and height.
Despite these limitations, this study is an important first step toward understanding the eating habits of people with ADHD.  It suggests to me that those treating ADHD should promote healthy lifestyles, as that should reduce ADHD's known risks of obesity and adverse medical outcomes.

July 2, 2021

CDC: Prescriptions for ADHD Medications in Reproductive Age Women on Rise

CDC Reports increase in prescriptions for ADHD Medications in Reproductive Age Women

The CDC recently reported that ADHD medication use in women ages 15 to 44 increased from 0.9 percent to 4 percent from 2003 to 2015.  The most commonly used medications were formulations of amphetamine or methylphenidate.  

This increase in treatment for ADHD suggests that educational programs such as adhdinadults.com have been effective in teaching clinicians how to identify and treat the disorder.   The 4 percent rate reported by the CDC is encouraging because it is close to what Ron Kessler and colleagues reported as the prevalence of adult ADHD in the population.   CDC correctly points out that little is known about the effects of ADHD medications on pregnancies. Thus, caution is warranted.


Oei et al.'s review of amphetamines concluded: "There is little evidence of amphetamine-induced neurotoxicity and long-term neurodevelopmental impact, as data is scarce and difficult to extricate from the influence of other factors associated with children living in households where one or more parent uses drugs in terms of poverty and neglect. ... We suggest that exposed children may be at risk of ongoing developmental and behavioral impediment, and recommend that efforts be made to improve early detection of perinatal exposure and to increase the provision of early intervention services for affected children and their families"


Bolea-Alamanac et al.'s review of methylphenidate effects concluded: "There is a paucity of data regarding the use of methylphenidate in pregnancy and further studies are required. Although the default medical position is to interrupt any non-essential pharmacological treatment during pregnancy and lactation, in ADHD this may present a significant risk. Doctors need to evaluate each case carefully before interrupting treatment." These words of caution should be heeded by clinicians caring for women of reproductive age.

December 28, 2023

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Adults with ADHD

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Adults with ADHD

A Dutch study compared the efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) combined with treatment as usual (TAU), with TAU-only as the control group. MBCT consisted of an eight-week group therapy consisting of meditation exercises (body scan, sitting meditation, mindful movement), psychoeducation about ADHD, and group exercises. TAU consisted of usual treatment in the Netherlands, including medications and other psychological treatments. Sixty individuals were randomly assigned to each group. MBCT was taught in subgroups of 8 to 12 individuals. Patients assigned to TAU were not brought together in small groups. Baseline demographic and clinical characteristics were closely matched for both groups.

Outcomes were evaluated at the start, immediately following treatment, and again after 3 and 6 months using well-validated rating scales. Following treatment, the MBCT + TAU group outperformed the TAU group by an average of 3.4points on the Conner's Adult Rating Scale, corresponding to a standardized mean difference of .41. Thirty-one percent of the MBCT + TAU group made significant gains, versus 5% of the TAU group. 27% of MBCT +TAU patients scored a symptom reduction of at least 30 percent, as opposed to only 4% of TAU patients. Three and six-month follow-up effects were stable, with an effect size of .43.

The authors concluded, "that MBCT has significant benefits to adults with ADHD up to 6 months after post-treatment, about both ADHD symptoms and positive outcomes." Yet in their section on limitations, they overlook a potentially important one. There was no active placebo control. Those who were undergoing TAU-only were aware that they were not doing anything different from what they had been doing before the study. Hence, no substantial placebo response would be expected from this group during the intervention period (post-treatment they were offered an opportunity to undergo MBCT). Moreover, MBCT + TAU participants were gathered into small groups, whereas TAU participants were not. We, therefore, have no way of knowing what effect group interaction had on the outcomes because it was not controlled for. So, although these results are intriguing and suggest that further research is worthwhile, the work is not sufficiently rigorous to definitively conclude that MBCT should be prescribed for adults with ADHD.

June 8, 2021

Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy Effective for Older Adults with ADHD?

Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy Effective for Older Adults with ADHD?

Though there have been numerous studies on the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for ADHD symptoms in children, adolescents, and adults, few have examined efficacy among adults over 50. A new study begins to fill that void.

Psychiatric researchers from the New York University School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Pfizer randomly assigned 88 adults diagnosed with elevated levels of ADHD to one of two groups. The first group received 12 weeks of CBT targeting executive dysfunction - a deficiency in the ability to properly analyze, plan, organize, schedule, and complete tasks. The second group was assigned to a support group, intended to serve as a control for any effects arising from participating in group therapy. Each group was split into subgroups of six to eight participants. One of the CBT subgroups was run concurrently with one of the support-only subgroups and matched on the percent receiving ADHD medications.

Outcomes were obtained for 26 adults aged 50 or older (12 in CBT and 14 in support) and compared with 55 younger adults (29 in CBT and 26 in support). The mean age of the younger group was 35 and of the older group 56. Roughly half of the older group, and 3/5ths of the younger group, were on medication. Independent("blinded") clinicians rated symptoms of ADHD before and after treatment.

In the blind structured interview, both inattentive scores and executive function scores improved significantly and almost identically for both older and younger adults following CBT. When compared with the controls(support groups), however, there was a marked divergence. In younger adults, CBT groups significantly outperformed support groups, with mean relative score improvements of 3.7 for inattentive symptoms and 2.9 for executive functioning. In older adults, however, the relative score improvements were only 1.1 and0.9 and were not statistically significant.

Given the non-significant improvements over placebo, the authors' conclusion that "The results provide preliminary evidence that CBT is an effective intervention for older adults with ADHD" is premature. As they note, a similar large placebo effect was seen in adults over 50 in a meta-analysis of CBT for depression, rendering the outcomes non-significant. Perhaps structured human contact is the key ingredient in this age group. It may also be, as suggested by the positive relative gains on six of seven measures, that CBT has a small net benefit over placebo, which cannot be validated with such a small sample size. Awaiting results from studies with larger sample sizes, it is, for now, impossible to reach any definitive conclusions about the efficacy of CBT for treating adults over 50.

June 6, 2021

How to Avoid False Positives and False Negatives when Diagnosing Adult ADHD

How to Avoid False Positives and False Negatives when Diagnosing Adult ADHD?

A recent paper by Margaret Sibley and colleagues addresses a key issue in the diagnosis of adult ADHD. Is it sufficient to only collect data from the patient being diagnosed or are informants useful or, perhaps, essential, for diagnosing ADHD in adults? Dr. Sibley presented a systematic review of twelve studies that prospectively followed ADHD children into adulthood. Each of these studies asked a simple question: What fraction of ADHD youth continued to have ADHD in adulthood. Surprisingly, the estimates of ADHD's persistence ranged from a low of4% to a high of 77%. They found two study features that accounted for much of this wide range. The first was the nature of the informant; did the study rely only on the patient's report, or were other informants consulted. The second was the use of a strict diagnostic threshold of six symptoms. When they limited the analysis to studies that used informants and eliminated the six symptom threshold, the range of estimates was much narrower, 40% to 77%. From studies that computed multiple measures of persistence using different criteria, the authors concluded: "(1) requiring impairment to be present for diagnosis reduced persistence rates; (2) a norm-based symptom threshold led to higher persistence than a strict six-symptom DSM-based symptom count criterion; and (3) informant reports tended to show a higher number of symptoms than self-reports." These data have clear implications for what clinicians can do to avoid false positive and false negative diagnoses when diagnosing adult ADHD. It is reassuring that the self-reports of ADHD patients tend to underestimate the number and severity of ADHD symptoms. This means that your patients are not typically exaggerating their symptoms. Put differently, self-reports will not lead you to over-diagnose adult ADHD. Instead, reliance on self-reports can lead to false-negative diagnoses, i.e., concluding that someone does not have ADHD when, in fact, they do. You can avoid false negatives by doing a thorough assessment, which is facilitated by some tools available at www. ADHD in adults. Command described in CME videos there. If you think a patient might have ADHD but are not certain, it would be helpful to collect data from an informant, i.e., someone who knows the patient well such as a spouse, partner, roommate, or parent. You can collect such data by sending home a rating scale or by having the patient bring an informant to a subsequent visit. Dr. Sibley's paper also shows that you can avoid false-negative diagnoses by using a lower symptom threshold than what is required in the diagnostic manual. The new DSM 5 lowered the symptom threshold for adults from six to five. Can you go lower? Yes, but it is essential to show that these symptoms lead to clear impairments in living. Importantly, this symptom threshold refers to the number of symptoms documented in adulthood, not to the number of symptoms retrospectively reported in childhood. To be diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood, one must document that the patient had at least six impairing symptoms of ADHD before the age of 12.

April 29, 2021

Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy Effective for Treating Adult ADHD?

Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy Effective for Treating Adult ADHD?

The term "cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)" refers to a type of talk therapy that seeks to change the way patients think about themselves, their disorder, and the world around them in a manner that will help them overcome symptoms and achieve life goals.

Because CBT is typically administered by a psychologist or other mental health professionals, CBT services are not available in primary care. Nonetheless, it is useful for primary care practitioners to know about CBT so that they can refer appropriately as needed. So, what can we say about the efficacy of CBT for treating adults with ADHD?

Based on a meta-analysis by Young and colleagues, we know for certain that the number of published trials of CBT for adult ADHD is small; only nine trials are available. Five of these compared CBT with waiting list controls; three compared CBT with appropriate placebo control groups. In all of these studies, patients in the CBT and control groups were also being treated with ADHD medications.

Thus, they speak to the efficacy of CBT when given as an adjunctive treatment. The meta-analysis examined the waiting list controlled studies and the placebo-controlled studies separately. For both types of study, the effect of CBT in reducing ADHD symptoms was statistically significant, with a standardized mean effect size of 0.4.

This effect size, albeit modest, is large enough to conclude that CBT will be useful for some patients being treated with ADHD medications. Given these results, a reasonable guideline would be to refer adults with ADHD to a CBT therapist if they are being maintained on an ADHD medication, but that medication is not leading to a complete remission of their symptoms and impairments. So listen to your patients. If, while on an appropriately titrated medication regime, they still complain about unresolved symptoms or impairments, you need to take action.  In some cases, changing their dose or shifting to another medication will be useful. If such approaches fail or are not feasible, you should consider referral to a CBT therapist.

April 17, 2021

Adult Onset ADHD: Does it Exist? Is it Distinct from Youth Onset ADHD?

Adult Onset ADHD: Does it Exist? Is it Distinct from Youth Onset ADHD?

There is a growing interest (and controversy) in 'adult-onset ADHD. No current diagnostic system allows for the diagnosis of ADHD in adulthood, yet clinicians sometimes face adults who meet all criteria for ADHD, except for age at onset. Although many of these clinically referred adult-onset cases may reflect poor recall, several recent longitudinal population studies have claimed to detect cases of adult-onset ADHD that showed no signs of ADHD as a youth (Agnew-Blais, Polanczyk et al. 2016, Caye, Rocha, et al. 2016). They conclude, not only that ADHD can onset in adulthood, but that childhood-onset and adult-onset ADHD may be distinct syndromes(Moffitt, Houts, et al. 2015)

In each study, the prevalence of adult-onset ADHD was much larger than the prevalence of childhood-onset adult ADHD). These estimates should be viewed with caution.  The adults in two of the studies were 18-19 years old.  That is too small a slice of adulthood to draw firm conclusions. As discussed elsewhere (Faraone and Biederman 2016), the claims for adult-onset ADHD are all based on population as opposed to clinical studies.
Population studies are plagued by the "false positive paradox", which states that, even when false positive rates are low, many or even most diagnoses in a population study can be false.  

Another problem is that the false positive rate is sensitive to the method of diagnosis. The child diagnoses in the studies claiming the existence of adult-onset ADHDused reports from parents and/or teachers but the adult diagnoses were based on self-report. Self-reports of ADHD in adults are less reliable than informant reports, which raises concerns about measurement error.   Another longitudinal study found that current symptoms of ADHD were under-reported by adults who had had ADHD in childhood and over-reported by adults who did not have ADHD in childhood(Sibley, Pelham, et al. 2012).   These issues strongly suggest that the studies claiming the existence of adult-onset ADHD underestimated the prevalence of persistent ADHD and overestimated the prevalence of adult-onset ADHD.  Thus, we cannot yet accept the conclusion that most adults referred to clinicians with ADHD symptoms will not have a history of ADHD in youth.

The new papers conclude that child and adult ADHD are "distinct syndromes", "that adult ADHD is more complex than a straightforward continuation of the childhood disorder" and that adult ADHD is "not a neurodevelopmental disorder". These conclusions are provocative, suggesting a paradigm shift in how we view adulthood and childhood ADHD.   Yet they seem premature.  In these studies, people were categorized as adult-onset ADHD if full-threshold add had not been diagnosed in childhood.  Yet, in all of these population studies, there was substantial evidence that the adult-onset cases were not neurotypical in adulthood (Faraone and Biederman 2016).  Notably, in a study of referred cases, one-third of late adolescent and adult-onset cases had childhood histories of ODD, CD, and school failure(Chandra, Biederman, et al. 2016).   Thus, many of the "adult onsets" of ADHD appear to have had neurodevelopmental roots. 

Looking through a more parsimonious lens, Faraone and Biederman(2016)proposed that the putative cases of adult-onset ADHD reflect the existence of subthreshold childhood ADHD that emerges with full threshold diagnostic criteria in adulthood.   Other work shows that subthreshold ADHD in childhood predicts onsets of full-threshold ADHD in adolescence(Lecendreux, Konofal, et al. 2015).   Why is onset delayed in subthreshold cases? One possibility is that intellectual and social supports help subthreshold ADHD youth compensate in early life, with decompensation occurring when supports are removed in adulthood or the challenges of life increase.  A related possibility is that the subthreshold cases are at the lower end of a dimensional liability spectrum that indexes risk for onset of ADHD symptoms and impairments.  This is consistent with the idea that ADHD is an extreme form of a dimensional trait, which is supported by twin and molecular genetic studies(Larsson, Anckarsater, et al. 2012, Lee, Ripke, et al. 2013).  These data suggest that disorders emerge when risk factors accumulate over time to exceed a threshold.  Those with lower levels of risk at birth will take longer to accumulate sufficient risk factors and longer to onset.

In conclusion, it is premature to accept the idea that there exists an adult-onset form of ADHD that does not have its roots in neurodevelopment and is not expressed in childhood.   It is, however, the right time to carefully study apparent cases of adult-onset ADHD to test the idea that they are late manifestations of a subthreshold childhood condition.

April 7, 2021

Adult ADHD is a Risk Factor for Broken Bones

Adult ADHD is a Risk Factor for Broken Bones

Although some people view the impulsivity and inattentiveness of ADHD adults as a normal trait, these symptoms have adverse consequences, which is why doctors consider ADHD to be a disorder. The list of adverse consequences is long and now we can add another: broken bones.  

A recent study by Komurcu and colleagues examined 40 patients who were seen by doctors because of broken bones and forty people who had not broken a bone. After measuring ADHD symptoms in these patients, the study found that the patients with broken bones were more impulsive and inattentive than those without broken bones. This data suggest that, compared with others, adults with ADHD symptoms put themselves in situations that lead to broken bones. What could those situations be?  

Well, we know for starters that ADHD adults are more likely to have traffic accidents. They are also more likely to get into fights due to their impulsivity. As a general observation, it makes sense that inattentive people are more likely to have accidents that lead to injuries.


When we don't pay attention, we can put ourselves in dangerous situations. So, who should care about these results?  ADHD patients need to know about this so that they understand the potential consequences of their disorder. They are exposed to so much media attention to the dangers of drug treatment that it can be easy to forget that non-treatment also has consequences. Cognitive behavior therapy is also useful for helping patients learn how to avoid situations that might lead to accidents and broken bones.    

This study also has an important message for administrators on how to make decisions about subsidizing or reimbursing treatment for ADHD. They need to know that treating ADHD can prevent outcomes that are costly to the healthcare system, such as broken bones.  For example, in a study of children and adolescents, Leibson and colleagues showed that healthcare costs for ADHD patients were twice the cost for other youth, partly due to more hospitalizations and more emergency room visits.

Does this data mean that every ADHD patient is doomed to a life of injury and hospital visits? Certainly not.

But they do mean that patients and their loved ones need to be cautious and need to seek treatments that can limit the possibility of accidents and injury.

March 18, 2021

Stigma: Public attitudes towards children and adults with ADHD

Stigma: Public attitudes towards children and adults with ADHD

To gauge the extent of stigma towards persons with ADHD, a European research team hired a company specialized in market and social research to conduct a poll of some five thousand randomly selected Germans. Just over a thousand completed the interview, representing a response rate of only one in five. The team acknowledged, "Although non-responder bias has to be considered to be important, ethical considerations prohibited the collection of any detailed information on non-respondents." The sample had slightly more women and elderly persons, and a higher average level of educational attainment relative to the German population as a whole. Sampling weights we reused to compensate for these discrepancies.

The poll relied on computer-assisted telephone interviews. Interviews began with prerecorded vignettes of either an a12-year-old child or a 35-year-old adult exhibiting core symptoms of ADHD (such as "careless mistakes in schoolwork," "does not follow through on instructions," easily distracted by extraneous stimuli, "loses things", "leaves his place in the classroom or when sitting at the dining table"). Half of those interviewed were presented with child vignettes and half with adult vignettes. The gender of the person described varied randomly.

On a scale of one to five, respondents were asked to indicate levels of agreement with two statements: 1. "Basically, we are all sometimes like this person. It's just a question of how pronounced this state is." 2. "All in all, the problems of Robert / Anne are abnormal." For both child and adult vignettes, two out of three respondents agreed that "we are all sometimes like this person." One in three respondents considered the problems depicted in the child vignettes as abnormal. That dropped to one in four in the adult vignettes.

Next, respondents were asked whether they ever had a problem like this and whether someone among their family or close friends ever had to deal with such a problem. For both vignettes, one in four acknowledged having had a problem like this, and half said a close friend or family member had such a problem.

On the assumption that "negative emotional reactions are an important consequence of negative stereotypes, leading to separation, discrimination and status loss," respondents were probed for their specific emotional reactions. "I feel annoyed," " react angrily," and" provokes my incomprehension" were interpreted as indicating varying levels of anger. "Provokes fear" and "Makes me feel insecure" were seen as indicating fear. "I feel uncomfortable" was viewed as indicating somewhere between fear and anger. On the other hand, "I feel the need to help," "I feel pity," and "I feel sympathy" were interpreted as "pro-social" responses.

Pro-social reactions were by far the most common. Over two-thirds felt a need to help a child, and over half to help an adult, in such a situation. In both instances, almost half felt sympathy, and a half or more felt pity. On the other hand, a quarter of respondents in each case felt annoyed, and just under one in five felt uncomfortable. Almost one in seven reacted angrily to the child vignette, and almost one in six to the adult vignette. Fear was the least frequent emotional reaction.

In the case of adults, respondents were also asked about their willingness to accept the person described in the vignette in seven social situations:

·      Working together
·      As a neighbor
·      Marrying into the family
·      Introducing to a friend
·      Renting a room
·      Recommending for a job
·      Taking care of children

While three out of four respondents were willing to accept such persons as co-workers, only one in three would recommend them for a job. Two out of three would accept such persons as neighbors, and almost as many to marry into the family. Three out of five would very willingly introduce such persons to friends. Slightly over half would rent a room to them. But less than one in three would be willing to have such individuals take care of their children.

Older respondents were more likely to see the problems as "abnormal" and to seek greater social distance. Women, and respondents with higher levels of education, were less likely to see the problems as abnormal and more likely to respond in pro-social ways.

Though showing most Germans to be accepting of persons with ADHD, these findings still indicate a significant degree of stigma, though less than for other psychiatric conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, or alcohol dependence.

March 10, 2021

Evaluating Financial Decision-Making in Adults With ADHD

Evaluating Financial Decision-Making in Adults With ADHD

A Dutch and German team compared the performance of 45 adults with ADHD and 51 normally developing controls on a battery of standardized tests and questionnaires designed to assess competence in financial decision-making (FDM). These were supplemented with neuropsychological tests, as well as evaluations of each participant’s personal financial situation.

The two groups had roughly comparable demographic characteristics. There were no significant differences in age, gender balance, years of education, or work status. Students were excluded from both groups because they tend to be financially dependent and to have little or no income.

The ADHD group scored more than three times higher on self-report questionnaires for both the retrospective assessment of childhood symptoms ( Wender Utah Rating Scale—Childhood) and for evaluating current symptoms of ADHD (ADHD self-report scale). Researchers did not perform clinical evaluations of ADHD.

To determine their personal financial situation, participants were asked about their income range as well as, “Do you have debts other than mortgage or study loans?”;“Do you receive social security?”; “Do you have a savings account?”;“Do you save actively, that is, do you put money in your savings account on a regular basis?”; “Do you save for retirement?”; and “Do you own a house?” They were also asked how much they set aside in monthly savings, and, where applicable, how much they receive in social security.

On five out of nine criteria, significant differences emerged between the two groups. Whereas healthy controls had median incomes in the range of €35,000 to €45,000, for those with ADHD it was dramatically lower, between €15,000 and €25,000. Healthy controls also had twice as much disposable income. Whereas almost half of adults with ADHD reported debts other than mortgage or educational loans, only a third as many healthy adults had such debt. And whereas only slightly over half of those with ADHD reported having savings accounts, among healthy adults it was more than six out of seven. Finally, healthy controls were four times as likely to own a home.

Participants were then given standardized tests to evaluate financial competence, financial decision-making capacity, financial decision styles, the ability to make financial decisions using decision rules, the capacity to make decisions with implications for the future, impulsive buying tendencies, and a gambling task as a measure of emotional decision-making.

Adults with ADHD scored significantly lower than healthy adults on the financial competence test, and in particular, on financial abilities, financial judgment, financial management, and financial support resources. Similar outcomes emerged from the financial decision-making capacity test, especially when it came to identifying and understanding relevant information. Adults with ADHD were also significantly more likely to use avoidant and spontaneous decision styles. They also showed significantly more temporal discounting, meaning they tended to prefer immediate gratification over long-term financial security. That translated into significantly higher propensities to buy on impulse. In all cases these differences had large effect sizes.

Finally, participants were tested on nine cognitive functions: information processing speed, vigilance and selective attention, inhibition, interference, figural fluency, cognitive flexibility, task switching, verbal working memory, and numeracy.

Those with ADHD performed significantly worse, with medium effect sizes, on three cognitive measures: vigilance, interference, and numeracy. There were no significant differences on the other six measures.

The authors concluded, “The results show that the personal financial situation of adults with ADHD was less optimal than the financial situation of healthy controls. Furthermore, adults with ADHD showed significantly decreased performances compared with healthy controls in five out of seven tasks measuring FDM and on measures of vigilance, interference, and numeracy. However, mediation analyses indicated that differences in cognitive functioning cannot fully explain the differences with regard to FDM between adults with ADHD and healthy controls.”

They also pointed to limitations of the study. One is that 19 of the 45 adults with ADHD had comorbid disorders, of which three were substance dependencies. However, removing them had little effect on the outcome. Another limitation was that adults with ADHD were off medication during the testing, so it is unclear how stimulants would affect the test outcomes. The authors state, “The influence of treatment use should, therefore, be explored in future research on FDM and adults with ADHD.”

February 26, 2021

Driving, Safety, and ADHD

How to Improve Driving Safety for Teens and Adults With ADHD

Drivers with ADHD are far more likely to be involved in crashes, to be at fault in crashes,to be in severe crashes, and to be killed in crashes. The more severe the ADHD symptoms, the higher the risk. Moreover, ADHD is often accompanied by comorbid conditions such as oppositional-defiant disorder, depression, and anxiety that further increase the risk.

What can be done to reduce this risk? A group of experts has offered the following consensus recommendations:

·   Use stimulant medications. While there is no reliable evidence on whether non-stimulant medications are of any benefit for driving, there is solid evidence that stimulant medications are effective in reducing risk. But there is also a rebound effect in many individuals after the medication wears off, in which performance actually becomes worse than if had been prior to medication. It is therefore important to time the taking of medication so that its period of effectiveness corresponds with driving times. If one has to drive right after waking up, it makes sense to take a rapid acting form. The same holds for late night driving that may require a quick boost.

·   Use a stick shift vehicle wherever possible. Stick shifts make drivers pay closer attention than automatic transmissions. The benefits in alertness are most notable in city traffic. But using a stick shift is far less beneficial in highway driving, where shifting is less frequent.

·  Avoid cruise control. Highways can be monotonous, making drivers more prone to boredom and distraction. That is even more true for those with ADHD, so it is best to keep cruise control turned off.

·   Avoid alcohol. Drinking and driving is a bad idea for everyone, but, once again, it's even worse for those with ADHD. Parents should consider a no-questions-asked policy of either picking up their teenager anytime and anywhere, or setting up an account with a ride-sharing service.·   Place the smartphone out of reach and hearing. Cell phone use is as about as likely to impair as alcohol. Hands-free devices only reduce this risk moderately, because they continue to distract. Texting can be deadly. Sending a short text or emoticon can be the equivalent of driving 100 yards with one's eyes closed. Either turn on Do Not Disturb mode, or, for even greater effectiveness, place the smart phone in the trunk.

·   Make use of automotive performance monitors. These can keep track of maximum speeds and sudden acceleration and braking, to verify that a teenager is not engaging in risky behaviors.

·   Take advantage of graduated driver's licensing laws wherever available. These laws forbid the presence of peers in the vehicle for the first several (for example, six) months of driving. Parents can extend that period for teenagers with ADHD, or set it as a condition in states that lack such laws.

·  Encourage practicing after obtaining a learner's permit. Teenagers with ADHD generally require more practice than those without. A pre-drive checklist can be a good place to start. For example:check the gas, check the mirrors, make sure the view through the windows is unobstructed, put cell phone in Do Not Disturb mode and place it out of reach, put on seat belt, scan for obstacles.

·   Consider outsourcing. Look for a driving school with a professional to teach good driving skills and habits.

Experts do not agree on whether to delay licensing for those with ADHD. On the one hand, teenagers with ADHD are 3-4 years behind in the development of brain areas responsible for executive functions that help control impulses and better guide behavior. Delaying licensing can reduce risk by about 20 percent. On the other hand, teens with ADHD are more likely to drive without a license, and no one wants to encourage that, however inadvertently. Moreover, graduated driver's licensing laws only have legal effect on teens who get their licenses at the customary age.

February 22, 2021

How extensive is perceived discrimination among adults with ADHD?

How extensive is perceived discrimination among adults with ADHD?

How Extensive Is Perceived Discrimination Among Adults With ADHD?

An international team of mental health professionals used a nationally representative sample of English adults over age 16 to explore this question. Of 13,671 households selected, 7,461 (a little more than half) participated.

Participants used the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS) Screener to assess symptoms of ADHD on a scale ranging from 0 to 24. Those scoring ≥ 14 were considered as having high levels of ADHD symptoms. They also responded to a computer-assisted self-interview that asked, “Have you been unfairly treated in the last 12 months … because of your mental health,” requiring a yes or no answer.

The raw data showed an exponential relationship between levels of ADHD symptoms and mental health discrimination. Respondents scoring 0-9 on the ASRS reported negligible discrimination (prevalence of 0.3%). Among those scoring 10-13, the prevalence was 2.3%, rising to 5.5% of those with scores in the 14-17 range, and 18.8% among those in the 18-24 range.

After adjusting for sociodemographic variables (sex, age, ethnicity, marital status, educational attainment, and income), those with high levels of ADHD symptoms were nearly 10 times more likely to have experienced discrimination than others.  After adjusting for other psychopathology and stressful life events, this increased risk fell to 2.8.

The authors concluded, “This is an important finding given that mental health discrimination has been associated with detrimental consequences in individuals with mental health disorders and therefore might also be a factor in the negative outcomes that have been noted in adults with ADHD/ADHD symptomatology. As ADHD continues to be underdiagnosed and untreated in adults, the results of this study highlight the importance of identifying and treating these individuals and suggest that interventions to inform the public about ADHD may be important for reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with this condition.”

February 20, 2021

Liquid Medication Options for ADHD Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Long-Acting Liquid Methylphenidate for Treating ADHD in Intellectually Capable Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

A team from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a six-week open-label trial of liquid-formulation extended-release methylphenidate (MPH-ER) to treat ADHD in adults with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HF-ASD). ASD is a lifelong disorder with deficits in social communication and interaction and restricted, repetitive behaviors. Roughly half of those diagnosed with ASD also are diagnosed with ADHD.

This was the first stimulant trial in adults with both ASD and ADHD. There were twelve male and three female participants, all with moderate to severe ADHD, and in their twenties, with IQ scores of at least 85.

Use of a liquid formulation enabled doses to be raised very gradually, starting with a daily dose of 5mg (1mL) and titrating up to 60mg over the first three weeks, then maintaining that level through the sixth week.  Participants were reevaluated for ADHD symptoms every week during the six-week trial. Severity of ASD was assessed at the start, midpoint, and conclusion of the trial, as were other psychiatric symptoms.

Prior to the trial, researchers agreed on a combination of targets on two clinician-rated scoring systems that would have to be reached for treatment to be considered successful. One is a score of 2 or less on the CGI-S, a measure of illness severity, with scores ranging from 1 (normal, not at all ill) to 7 (most extremely ill). The other, a reduction of at least 30 percent in the AISRS score, which combines each of 18 symptoms of ADHD on a severity grid (0=not present; 3=severe; overall minimum score: 0; overall maximum score: 54).

At the conclusion of the trial, twelve of the fifteen patients (80 percent) met the preset conditions for success. Fully fourteen (93 percent) saw a ≥ 30 percent reduction in their AISRS score, while twelve scored ≤ 2 on illness severity.

However, when using the patient-rated ASRS scoring system, only five (33 percent) saw a ≥ 30 percent reduction in ADHD severity.

Thirteen participants (87 percent) reported at least one adverse event, and nine (60 percent) reported two or more. One reported a serious adverse event (attempted suicide) in a patient with multiple prior attempts.  Because the attempt was not deemed due to medication they continued in and completed the trial. Seven participants experienced titration-limiting adverse events (headaches, palpitations, jaw pain, and insomnia). Headache was most frequent (53%), followed by insomnia and anxiety (33% each), and decreased appetite (27%).

During the trial, weight significantly decreased, while pulse significantly increased. There were no significant differences in other vital and cardiovascular measurements.

The authors concluded, “this OLT of short-term MPH-ER therapy documents that acute treatment with MPH-ER in young adults with ASD was associated with significant improvement in ADHD symptoms, mirroring the typically-expected magnitude of response observed in adults with only ADHD. Treatment with MPH-ER was well-tolerated, though associated with a higher than expected frequency of adverse events.”

They also cautioned, “The results of this study need to be considered in light of some methodological limitations. This was an open-label study; therefore, assessments were not blind to treatment. We did not employ a placebo control group and, therefore, cannot separate the effects of treatment from time or placebo effects. … firmer conclusions regarding the safety and efficacy of MPH-ER for the treatment of ADHD in HF-ASD populations await results from larger, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials.”

February 8, 2021

How to Identify ADHD in Adults With Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

How to identify ADHD in adults with alcohol use disorder (AUD)

ADHD is far more prevalent among persons with AUD (roughly 20 percent) than it is in the general population. The most accurate way of identifying ADHD is through structured clinical interviews. Given that this is not feasible in routine clinical settings, ADHD self-report scales offer a less reliable but much less resource-intensive alternative. Could the latter be calibrated in a way that would yield diagnoses that better correspond with the former?

A German team compared the outcomes of both methods on 404 adults undergoing residential treatment for AUD. All were abstinent while undergoing evaluations. First, to obtain reliable ADHD diagnoses, each underwent the Diagnostic Interview for ADHD in Adults, DIVA. If DIVA indicated probable ADHD, two expert clinicians conducted successive follow-up interviews. ADHD was only diagnosed when both experts concurred with the DIVA outcome.

Participants were then asked to use two adult ADHD self-report scales, the six-item Adult ADHD Self Report Scale v1.1 (ASRS) and the 30-item Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Scale (CAARS-S-SR). The outcomes were then compared with the expert interview diagnoses.

Using established cut-off values for the ASRS, less than two-thirds of patients known to have ADHD were scored as having ADHD by the test. In other words, there was a very high rate of false negatives. Lowering the cut-off to a sum score ≥ 11 resulted in a correct diagnosis of more than seven out of eight. But the rate of false positives soared to almost two in five.  Similarly, the CAARS-S-SR had its greatest sensitivity (ability to accurately identify those with ADHD) at the lowest threshold of ≥ 60, but at a similarly high cost in false positives (more than a third).

The authors found it was impossible to come anywhere near the precision of the expert clinical interviews. Nevertheless, they judged the best compromise to be to use the lowest thresholds on both tests and then require positive determinations from both. That led to successfully diagnosing more than three out of four individuals known to have ADHD, with a false positive rate of just over one in five.

Using this combination of the two self-reporting questionnaires with lower thresholds, they suggest, could substantially reduce the under-diagnosis of ADHD in alcohol-dependent patients.

February 6, 2021

Is Pharmacotherapy Effective for ADHD Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder?

How effective is pharmacotherapy of ADHD in adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder?

The team of researchers found that pharmacological treatment of adults with diagnoses of ADHD and ASD seem to be just as successful as the pharmacological treatment of adults with only ADHD.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is frequently comorbid with ADHD. Among adults with ADHD, as many as half are reported to also have ASD.

A Dutch team set out to answer two questions:

  • Do adults with ADHD and comorbid ASD experience less effectiveness of pharmacological treatment for ADHD than adults with only ADHD?
  • Do adults with ADHD and comorbid ASD experience different or more severe side effects of pharmacological treatment for ADHD than adults with only ADHD, as measured in side-effect scores, blood pressure, heart rate, and weight?

This was a retrospective study, using well-documented medical records, of the effects of drug treatment with methylphenidate (MPH), dexamphetamine (DEX), atomoxetine (ATX), bupropion, or modafinil.

The researchers compared 60 adults with comorbid ASD and ADHD to 226 adults with only ADHD. ADHD symptoms were scored using the Conner's ADHD Rating Scale: Self Report-Short Version (CAARS: S-S). Side effects of ADHD medication were measured using either a 13-item or 20-item checklist with 4-point scales for item response. Researchers also tracked changes in body weight, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Following treatment, ADHD symptoms among the comorbid group declined by a quarter, and among the ADHD-only group by almost a third. There was no significant difference between men and women. Controlling for age, gender, and ADHD subtype, a comorbid diagnosis of ASD also did not significantly affect ADHD symptom reduction.

Turning to side effects, in the ADHD+ASD group, there were significant increases in decreased appetite and weight loss, and decreases in agitation, anxiety, and sadness/unhappiness. In the ADHD-only group, there were significant increases in decreased appetite, weight loss, and dry mouth, and decreases in sleeping disorder, nervousness, agitation, anxiety, and sadness/unhappiness. Yet there were no significant differences between the two groups. Side effects increased and decreased similarly in both. Likewise, there were no significant differences between the groups in changes in heart rate and blood pressure. The only significant difference in medication dosage was for bupropion, which was higher in the ADHD+ASD group, though without any sign of difference in side effects.

The authors concluded that this retrospective study showed pharmacological treatment of adults with diagnoses of ADHD and ASD to be just as successful as the pharmacological treatment of adults with only ADHD, but cautioned that a randomized controlled trial should be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness and possible side effects of pharmacological treatment for ADHD in patients with ASD more reliably.

February 2, 2021