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.”
After adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education level, family income to poverty ratio, and geographic region, youths with food allergies were found to be over 70% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those without food allergies. After further mutual adjustment for other allergic conditions, they were still well over 40% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their non-allergic peers.
A growing body of studies suggests a link between inflammation and autoimmune diseases on the one hand and ADHD on the other. It has been hypothesized that excessive release of cytokines (small signaling proteins that regulate immune response and inflammation and repair) and keratinocytes (skin cells) under allergic conditions may cause structural and functional changes to the nervous system and brain, which can contribute to psychiatric disorders, including ADHD.
Noting that previous studies have focused primarily on associations between ADHD and respiratory allergies(asthma) and skin allergies, a joint Chinese and American study team set out to see what, if any, association there might be with food allergies.
To this end, they turned to the national health Interview Survey (NHIS), conducted annually by the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This survey relies on a very large, nationally representative sample of the U.S. population.
The study encompassed 192,573 youths aged 4 through 17 years old. Of these, 15,376 had an ADHD diagnosis, 8,603 had food allergies, 24,218 had respiratory allergies, and 18,703 had skin allergies.
After adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education level, family income to poverty ratio, and geographic region, youths with food allergies were found to be over 70% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those without food allergies. After further mutual adjustment for other allergic conditions, they were still well over 40% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their non-allergic peers.
How did that compare with respiratory and skin allergies? In the same study population, making identical adjustments for potential confounders, youths with respiratory allergies were 50% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those without such allergies. Those with skin allergies were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. After further mutual adjustment for other allergic conditions, those with respiratory allergies were still over a third more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, and those with skin allergies were 50% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
The authors concluded, "The current study found a significant and positive association between common allergic conditions, including food allergy, respiratory allergy, skin allergy, and ADHD in children. Although the detailed mechanisms linking food allergy and other allergic conditions to ADHD remain to be understood, physicians should be aware of the increased risk of ADHD as a comorbidity of children with allergic conditions".
Israel has a military draft that applies to males and females alike, except orthodox women and orthodox male seminary(yeshiva) students, who are exempt. Upon turning 17 every Israeli undergoes a medical review, including both a physical and psychiatric assessment, in preparation for the draft. The Draft Board Registry maintains comprehensive health information on all unselected Israelis until they turn 21. The registry also tracks all family members of draft registrants, including full siblings.
An Israeli study team used registry records from 1998 through2014 to obtain data for a total of over a million individuals (1,085,388). Because of the exemption for orthodox women, 59% were male.
The team identified 903,690 full siblings in the study population (58% males), including 166,359 male-male sibling pairs, 104,494 female-female sibling pairs, and 197,571 opposite-sex sibling pairs.
Next, the team identified all cases in the study population with a diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder, low IQ (≥2 standard deviations below the population mean), Type-1 diabetes, hernia, or hematological malignancies. It matched each case with ten age- and sex-matched controls selected at random from the study population. Then, for each case and case-matched controls, it identified all siblings.
There were 3,272 cases receiving treatment for ADHD, 2,128 with autistic spectrum disorder, 9,572 with severe/profound intellectual disability, 7,902 with psychotic disorders, 9,704 with mood disorders, 10,606with anxiety disorders, 24,815 with personality disorders, 791 with substance abuse disorders, 31,186 with low IQ, 2,770 with Type-1 diabetes, 30,199 with a hernia, and 931 with hematological malignancies.
Draftees with ADHD were five and a half times more likely to have a sibling with ADHD than controls.
There were no significant associations between ADHD and any of the somatic disorders - Type-1 diabetes, hernia, or hematological malignancies - nor between ADHD and low IQ.
There were also no significant associations between ADHD and autism spectrum disorder, severe/profound intellectual disability, mood disorders, and substance use disorders.
On the other hand, draftees with ADHD were more than 40% more likely to have siblings with anxiety or personality disorders than controls.
Surprisingly, draftees with ADHD were less than half as likely to have siblings with psychotic disorders than controls.
There were some limitations. The psychiatric classification system used by the Israeli military did not permit assessing the risk of bipolar disorder and depression separately. That meant having to use a broader category of mood disorders, including both disorders. In addition, the military diagnostic system does not allow diagnosis of comorbid psychiatric disorders in the same individual, instead of assigning only the most severe diagnosis.
Since 1989, South Korea has had a single-payer healthcare insurance system, the Korean National Health Insurance Service. This facilitates nationwide population studies.
A South Korean study team used the national health claims database to retroactively examine the relationship between birth weight and subsequent diagnosis of ADHD for all 2.36 million children born in the country between 2008 and 2012. After excluding children who had since died, who had missing birth weight records, missing income information, or who weighed under400 grams at birth, 2,143,652 children remained in the study cohort.
Gestational age at birth was not available, so could not be taken into consideration.
To reduce the impact of confounding factors, odds ratios were adjusted for sex, history of congenital or perinatal diseases, income, and birth year.
Children with more normal birth weights in the range of 2.5 to 4 kilograms were used as the reference group.
Children with birth weights greater than this reference group were found to be no more likely to develop ADHD than those in the reference group.
At the other end of the spectrum, children with birth weights under a kilogram were 2.2 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those in the reference group.
That dropped to 1.7 times more likely for those with birth weights from 1 to 1.5 kilograms; 1.5 times more likely in the 1.5-to-2-kilogram range, and 1.4 times more likely in the 2-to-2.5-kilogram range. This dose-response curve, accelerating steeply with lower birth weights, points to a strong association.
For autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the association was even stronger. Again, there was no significant association with higher-than-normal birth weight. But children in the 2-to-2.5-kilogram range were 1.9 times as likely to be diagnosed with ASD; those in the 1.5-to-2 kilogram tranche over three times as likely; those in the 1 to 1.5-kilogram tranche five and halftime as likely, and those under 1 kilogram over ten times as likely.
The authors concluded, "In this national cohort, infants with birth weights of < 2.5 kg were associated with ADHD and ASD, regardless of perinatal history. Children born with LBW [low birth weight] need detailed clinical follow-up."
Persons with type 1 diabetes were found to be eight times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those who were not diabetic.
Taiwan has a mandatory single-payer universal health insurance system, the National Health Insurance (NHI), that records diagnoses and prescriptions across virtually the entire resident population. Out of the roughly 28 million residents covered by NHI, a randomly assigned sample of 3 million is tracked in the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database(NHIRD).
Expert panels have to confirm all diagnoses of severe systemic autoimmune diseases, ensuring a high level of accuracy.
A Taiwanese study team availed itself of these records to explore the link between type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and ADHD. ADHD diagnoses were made by board-certified psychiatrists, based on comprehensive interviews and clinical judgment.
The team found a total of 6,226 cases diagnosed with T1DM in the decade from 2001 through 2010 and followed them through the end of 2001. It matched each case with ten age- and sex-matched non-T1DM controls from the same database, for a total of 62,260 controls.
Persons with type 1 diabetes were found to be eight times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those who were not diabetic. There was no difference in the risk ratio between youth and adults. The risk of ADHD among females with T1DM was only slightly lower than among males: sevenfold greater, rather than 8.5 times greater.
The authors concluded, "Our findings indicate the importance of the close monitoring of the mental health condition of patients with T1DM by clinicians ... The exact path of mechanisms between T1DM and major psychiatric disorders should be elucidated in future studies."
A meta-analysis of eight studies with a combined total of over 396,000 persons with ADHD reported a twofold greater risk of premature death in persons with ADHD as compared with the general population. There was no significant difference in mortality between males and females with ADHD.
But when natural causes of death, primarily disease, were distinguished from unnatural causes, such as injuries and poisoning, virtually all the increased risk was attributable to the latter.
A meta-analysis of four studies with a combined total of over 394,000 participants with ADHD found no significant increase in natural mortality among persons with ADHD. This held for both males and females.
But a meta-analysis of ten studies with over 430,000 persons with ADHD found a nearly threefold increase in unnatural mortality (injuries, poisoning, etc.) in persons with ADHD. Among females (five studies, over 110,000 participants) the increase was threefold. Males with ADHD (five studies, over 310,000 participants) were 2.5 times more susceptible to premature death.
An important caution: in all of these meta-analyses, between-study heterogeneity was extreme, meaning there was little consistency from one study to the next. Moreover, no effort was made to evaluate the likelihood of publication bias.
The largest study, with over 275,000 participants with ADHD, found a negligible and only marginally significant 7% increased all-cause risk of death. It found no increase in natural causes of mortality, but a 50% increase in unnatural causes of premature mortality.
The authors described these results as "suggestive," but emphasized that "the evidence was judged as only low confidence," in line with "inconsistent" evidence from previous nationwide population studies: in Denmark, a twofold increase in all-cause mortality; in Sweden, a fourfold increase; but in Taiwan, a tiny 7% increase that was at the limit of statistical significance, once the data was fully adjusted for confounding factors.
That led the authors to suggest "that all relevant potential confounders should be accounted for" in "future studies."
Meta-analysis discovers clear link between mothers with PCOS and children with ADHD.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects somewhere between 6 and 20% of women of reproductive age. Typical effects include:
· failure to ovulate;
· high levels of male hormones (androgens), which can lead to acne, seborrhea, hair loss on the scalp, increased body or facial hair, and infrequent or absent menstruation;
· metabolic disruption, including obesity and insulin resistance.
In pregnancy, PCOS is also known to increase the chances of birth complications.
Previous studies have suggested a link between maternal PCOS and ADHD.
A team of Arabian (Saudi and United Arab Emirates) researchers conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed medical literature and were able to identify four studies with a total of 1,354,182 participants that could be combined into a meta-analysis.
The meta-analysis found that children born to mothers with PCOS were 43% more likely to develop ADHD. The 95% confidence interval stretched from 35% to 51%, indicating a highly reliable finding.
Moreover, there was between-study variation: They all produced essentially identical results. There was also no sign of publication bias.
"However,"the authors noted, "the reported results do not necessarily provide definitive findings of a causal inference due to the randomized study design. All the included studies were observational in design." With this caution, they could only conclude that "the results of this meta-analysis showed that there might be a link between maternal PCOS and the risk of developing ASD and ADHD in the offspring."
After adjusting for genetic and environmental risk factors, meta-analysis shows Caesarean delivery does not appear to be an ADHD risk factor.
Previous meta-analyses have found an association between cesarean delivery (CD) and subsequent ADHD in children delivered in that manner. Some have theorized that by bypassing the birth canal, children delivered via CD may acquire their first microbiota from the hospital environment rather than from their mothers, which could disturb the normal development of the nervous system, including the brain.
Nevertheless, earlier studies have not fully explored the role of confounding factors.
A team of Swedish researchers availed themselves of the country's all-encompassing system of national population and health care registers to examine a cohort of over a 1.1 million single births from 1990 through 2003 and followed up through 2013.
They distinguished between planned CD and intrapartum (i.e., during the act of birth) CD. The latter is performed in response to complications with childbirth. This distinction could matter both because of different levels of exposure to the maternal gut microbiota, and because "intrapartum CD is often the result of complications during pregnancy (e.g., preeclampsia) or delivery (e.g., fetal distress), which could affect brain development."
Of 1,179,341 individuals, 1,048,838 were delivered vaginally, 59,514 were delivered by planned CD, and 70,989 were delivered by intrapartum CD.
After adjusting for the child's year of birth, gestational age, age of mother and father at birth, parity, mother's highest education level at birth, maternal smoking during pregnancy, maternal and paternal history of psychiatric disorders, maternal hypertension, maternal diabetes, maternal infections during pregnancy, fetal MAL presentation, large for gestational age, polyhydramnios, oligohydramnios, preeclampsia, and pelvic disproportion, children born by planned CD were 17% more likely to have ADHD.
After adjusting for all previously listed variables plus placenta disorders, dystocia failed induction, and fetal distress, children born by intrapartum CD were 10% more likely to have ADHD.
So far, the analysis confirmed results from previous meta-analyses.
But by exploring such a large cohort, it also became possible to compare ADHD prevalence, not only among unrelated individuals, but also among siblings and cousins, and thereby assess the role of confounders arising from genetics or shared environment.
Whether between full siblings or full maternal cousins, the associations between both types of CD and subsequent ADHD became weak and statistically non-significant.
The authors concluded, "The findings of this study suggest that the association between CD and increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in the children was most likely explained by unmeasured familial confounding."
ADHD aggregates with Alzheimer's disease and any dementia within families
Alzheimer's disease is characterized by an aging-related progressive deterioration in cognition and ability for independent living. It is the most common form of dementia. Few studies, with limited sample sizes, have probed the relationship between ADHD and dementia, with conflicting results.
A Swedish study team used the country's universal system of population and health registers' linked through unique personal identification numbers - to examine patterns among the more than 2.1 million Swedes born between 1980 and 2001.
Each of these individuals was then linked to their biological relatives, parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts through the Medical Birth Register and Multi-generation Register.
This generated three cohorts of relatives representing different levels of genetic relatedness: parents sharing half of their genes; grandparents sharing a quarter of their genes; and uncles and aunts who also share a quarter of their genes with index persons. After linking index persons to their biological relatives, the study cohorts contained more than 2.2 million parents, over 2.5 million grandparents, and almost a million uncles/aunts.
By the end of follow-up, 3,042 (0.13%) parents, 171,732 (6.82%) grandparents, and 1,369 (0.15%) uncles/aunts had a diagnosis of Alzheimer's. The numbers for any dementia were 3,792 (0.17%) for parents, 197,843 (7.86%) for grandparents, and 1,697 (0.18%) for uncles/aunts.
Parents of persons with ADHD were 34% more likely to have any dementia, and 55% more likely to have Alzheimer's. Among grandparents of persons with ADHD, the association dropped to 10-11% more likely for any kind of dementia. Among aunts and uncles, it dropped to a 14% greater likelihood of Alzheimer's(similar to grandparents) and a 4% greater chance of any dementia. In this case, however, the results were not statistically significant, probably due in part to the much smaller sample size
Both with parents and grandparents of persons with ADHD, the risk of early onset of any kind of dementia was well over twice as high as the risk of late-onset.
"We found that ADHD aggregated with AD [Alzheimer's disease] and any dementia within families, and the strength of association attenuated with decreasing degree of genetic relatedness," the authors concluded, and called for further studies to identify genetic variants and family-wide environmental risk factors contributing to both conditions. If verified by such studies, that would indicate a need for "investigation of early-life psychiatric prevention on the development of neurodegenerative diseases in older age."
Childhood antibiotic use is not found to be associated with development of ADHD
A Chinese research team recently conducted a systematic search of the peer-reviewed medical journal literature for studies exploring the association between childhood antibiotic exposure and subsequent diagnosis of ADHD in youths 18 years and younger.
A meta-analysis of six studies with a combined total of over 1.5 million participants found that children exposed to antibiotics were 18% more likely to later be diagnosed with ADHD.
There was absolutely no indication of publication bias. Between-study heterogeneity, on the other hand, was extremely high.
With such large cohorts, one can often tease out whether an association is causal, or due to genetic and familial confounding, by looking at matched close relatives.
Three of the studies, with a combined total of well over half a million participants, also compared matched siblings.
Significantly, the meta-analysis among matched siblings found no association whatsoever between childhood exposure to antibiotics and subsequent ADHD. Between-study heterogeneity was virtually nonexistent.
The team concluded, "Our meta-analysis indicated that early-life antibiotic exposure was associated with a subsequent increased risk of ASD or ADHD. However, such association was not found in the sibling-matched analysis, indicating that genetic and familial confounding factors may largely explain the observed association."
Although all potential confounding factors have not been ruled out, these findings add to a growing body of evidence that suggests that certain ASMs (i.e., lamotrigine) may be safer than others in pregnancy.
Roughly five of every thousand women (0.5%) have epilepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, or convulsions, associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Primary treatment consists of anti-seizure medications (ASMs).
Yet, research has shown that ASMs cross the human placenta. In rodents, ASMs have been shown to lead to abnormal neuronal development, and some research has pointed to the risk of adverse birth outcomes and neurodevelopmental disorders in humans. But samples have been too small for reliable conclusions, and in most cases confounding factors are not addressed.
For a more comprehensive evaluation of risk from ASMs, an international team of researchers examined a nationwide cohort using Swedish national registers that track health outcomes for virtually the entire population.
Using the Medical Birth Register, the National Patient Register, and the Multi-Generation Register, they were able to identify 14,614 children born from 1996-to 2011 to mothers with epilepsy.
Through the prescribed Drug Register, they also examined the first-trimester use of anti-seizure medications (ASMs) by these mothers. The three most frequently used ASMs "frequent enough to yield useful data“ were valproic acid, lamotrigine, and carbamazepine.
The researchers identified ADHD in offspring in one of two ways: ICD-10 (international classification of Diseases, 10th Revision) diagnoses, or filled prescriptions of ADHD medication.
Finally, they consulted the Integrated Database for Labor Market Research and the Education Register to explore potential confounding variables. These included maternal and paternal age at birth, the highest education, cohabitation status, and country of origin. They also included maternal and paternal disposable income in the year of birth and a measure of neighborhood deprivation.
Using the medical registers, they considered parental psychiatric and behavioral problems diagnosed before pregnancy, including bipolar disorder, suicide attempt, schizophrenia diagnosis, substance use disorder, and criminal convictions. They adjusted for inpatient diagnosis of seizures in the year before pregnancy to capture and adjust for indication severity.
Other covariates explored included year of birth, birth order, child sex, maternal-reported smoking during pregnancy, and use of other psychotropic medications.
After fully adjusting for all these confounders, children of mothers who were taking valproic acid were more than 70% more likely to develop ADHD than those of mothers not taking an anti-seizure medicine during pregnancy. The sample size was 699, and the 95% confidence interval stretched from 28% to 138% more likely to develop ADHD.
By contrast, children of mothers who were taking lamotrigine were at absolutely no greater risk(Hazard Ratio = 1) of developing ADHD than those of mothers not taking an anti-seizure medicine during pregnancy.
Finally, children of mothers who were taking carbamazepine were 18% more likely to develop ADHD than those of mothers not taking an anti-seizure medicine during pregnancy, but this result was not statistically significant (the 95% confidence interval ranged from 9% less likely to 52% more likely).
The authors concluded, "The present study did not find support for a causal association between maternal use of lamotrigine in pregnancy and ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder] and ADHD in children. We observed an elevated risk of ASD and ADHD related to maternal use of valproic acid, while associations with carbamazepine were weak and not statistically significant. Although we could not rule out all potential confounding factors, our findings add to a growing body of evidence that suggests that certain ASMs (i.e., lamotrigine) may be safer than others in pregnancy."
Statistically significant exposure-response trend found linking miscarriage and ADHD
Spontaneous abortion is the medical term used for what is more commonly known as miscarriage. It means the unintended loss of an embryo or fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. This must not be confused in any way with induced abortion, which is a deliberate and intentional act to terminate a pregnancy.
Most miscarriages occur when the fetus is not developing properly. Among the major causes of miscarriage are chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects, abnormal hormonal imbalances, infections, and exposure to toxins.
A team of Chinese researchers used the Danish national registers to explore a nationwide cohort for associations between previous miscarriage and ADHD in subsequent offspring. They included all 1.1 million births in Denmark over the 17 years from 1995 through 2012. They excluded all children with chromosomal abnormalities, those born either extremely early (after less than 22 weeks gestation) or extremely late (greater than 45 weeks), and those for whom this information was missing. That left over one million children in the study cohort.
The team classified children as having ADHD either based on a recorded hospital diagnosis or after receiving ADHD medication prescriptions at least twice after the age of 3 years. A total of 25,747 children were identified as ADHD individuals (554 mothers having at least two miscarriages, 3,087 mothers having one miscarriage, and 22,106 mothers without miscarriage). The average age of the first ADHD diagnosis was 10 years.
Just over 130,000 children (12.2%) were born to mothers who had at least one miscarriage. Of these, just under 113,000 (10.6%) were born to mothers with a single miscarriage before birth, and just over 17,000 to mothers with more than one prior miscarriage.
Based on previous research, the team identified potential confounders, including sex, preterm birth (less than 37 weeks), low birth weight, small for gestational age, low Agar score (performed right after birth to assess the risk of infant mortality), maternal and paternal ages at birth, maternal diabetes, maternal hypothyroidism, maternal smoking during pregnancy, maternal education level, maternal and paternal psychiatric disorders before birth.
After adjusting for these possible confounders, children of mothers with a single prior miscarriage were 9% more likely to develop ADHD than those of mothers without any miscarriage. Children of mothers with two or more prior miscarriages were 22% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. This upward exposure-response trend was statistically significant.
Preterm birth was found to be the strongest confounding mediator of this trend but accounted for under 4% of the association. The authors concluded, "the observed associations were independent of several factors, such as maternal socioeconomic status, type of spontaneous abortion, parental history of psychiatric disorders, pregnancy characteristics (maternal smoking status, infection, diabetes and hypothyroidism status during pregnancy)and birth outcomes (low birth weight, preterm birth, low Agar score, and small for gestational age)."
They also noted that given the frequency of miscarriages, affecting more than one in eight women, "a small increase of neurodevelopmental problems in offspring could have major public health implications."
Population study finds that early enterovirus infection can put those individuals at a 25% higher risk for later ADHD diagnosis.
Enteroviruses (EV) are a class of RNA viruses. This group of viruses includes some no-longer endemic forms such as polio and some serious but rare forms that cause encephalitis and meningitis. The most common virus in this population and period (1999-2003) was EV71, which can have complications, sometimes fatal, especially for children under five years old. It has also been linked to various chronic diseases, many of them neurological.
Is it associated with the subsequent diagnosis of ADHD and, if so, to what extent?
Taiwan offers an excellent opportunity to study this in an entire population. This is because of its single-payer health care system. Its database "the National Health Insurance research database" covers 99.5 percent of the population.
The Taiwanese study team used a sub-database, the Longitudinal Health Insurance Database 2000, containing claims data from a million persons randomly sampled from the parent database.
From this database, the researchers identified over 49,000 EV patients. They excluded all who were 18 and older, were missing essential data or had been diagnosed with ADHD, epilepsy, topic diseases, coronary artery disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, or systemic lupus erythematosus before being diagnosed with enterovirus. That left an EV cohort of 14,168, who were matched with an equal number of non-EV individuals matched by age and sex.
After adjusting for age, sex, paternal occupation, and urbanization level of the residence, the EV cohort group was found to have a 25 percent greater risk for ADHD than the control group.
ADHD patients were found to be seven times more likely than controls to have first-degree relatives with ADHD.
Taiwan's National Health Insurance program is a single-payer system that covers 99.6% of the island's 23 million residents. It includes family relationships.
This enabled a Taiwanese study team to examine the comorbidity of psychiatric disorders among close relatives in the entire population over eleven years, beginning at the start of 2001 and concluding at the end of2011.
For greater certainty of diagnosis, only persons twice diagnosed with the same psychiatric disorder were included as index individuals. There were 431,887 index patients, 152,443 of whom were ADHD index patients.
These index patients were then compared with all of their first-degree relatives (FDRs): parents, children, siblings, and twins. This produced 1,017,430 patient-FDR pairs, of which 401,301 were ADHD patient-FDR pairs.
Next, four controls were matched by age, gender, and type relative to each case, resulting in 4,069,720 control pairs.
After adjusting for age, gender, urbanization, and income level, ADHD patients were seven times more likely than controls to have first-degree relatives with ADHD. They were also seven times more likely to have FDRs with major depressive disorder, four times more likely to have FDRs with autism spectrum disorder, twice as likely to have FDRs with bipolar disorder, and 80%more likely to have FDRs with schizophrenia.
Oxytocin is a hormone released by the pituitary gland that stimulates the contraction of the uterus during labor. Synthetic oxytocin is widely administered during labor to supplement a birthing parent's supply and facilitate childbirth.
Previous studies have found an association between synthetic oxytocin and increased odds of ADHD in offspring.
A joint Danish and Finnish team used their countries' national registers to obtain countrywide cohorts encompassing over 577,000 Danes and over 945,000 Finns. Oxytocin had been administered in 31% of the Danish deliveries and 46% of the Finnish ones. Any children either diagnosed with ADHD or who received prescriptions for ADHD drugs were categorized as having ADHD.
As in previous studies, unadjusted results found a significant association with ADHD. Combining the two populations, children whose mothers had received oxytocin during labor were 16% more likely to later develop ADHD.
After adjusting for a series of confounders such as birth year, maternal age, education, marital status, parity, smoking in pregnancy, labor induction, gestational age, and intrauterine growth, the association dropped markedly, to an increased likelihood of barely 3%.
Looking at Denmark alone, the unadjusted risk was 9% greater, vanishing altogether after adjusting for confounders. In Finland, the unadjusted risk was 20% greater, declining to 4% after adjusting for confounders.
The authors noted that "Exposure to obstetric oxytocin is not a random process, and it is likely that other factors than the ones included here vary systematically between women treated vs not treated with oxytocin. ... Therefore, we find it most likely that the minor elevations in risk are due to uncontrolled and residual confounding, and thereby our results underscore the lack of a causal association between obstetric oxytocin exposure and ADHD."
Preschool children who were never breastfed as infants are much more likely to have a medical diagnosis of ADHD than are children who were exclusively breastfed as infants.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of infancy and continuation of breastfeeding for at least a year thereafter. Yet less than a third of U.S. mothers are still breastfeeding their infants at 12 months.
Previous studies have suggested that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of ADHD. But sample sizes have been small, and have not sufficiently explored confounding factors.
Using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health, a research team analyzed data from a representative U.S. sample of 12,793 three- to five-year-old children.
The team excluded children with autism, developmental delays, speech problems, Tourette syndrome, epilepsy or seizure disorder, hearing problems, non-correctable vision problems, bone/joint/muscle problems, brain injury/concussion, or any current behavioral/conduct problems other than ADHD.
The team also adjusted for potential confounders. Some were demographic: sex, age, race, household income, the number of adults older than 18 years of age living in the home, and the number of children younger than the age of 18 years living in the home. Other variables related to health care access and delivery: insurance type, consistency of health insurance in the past 12 months, and a composite variable reflecting having a primary care provider, getting needed referrals, and effective care coordination. Exposure to secondhand smoke and preterm births were other key variables.
In the fully adjusted results, children who had been breastfed for at least six months were 62% less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those who had not (p = .0483). Moreover, each month of breastfeeding duration was associated with a significant additional 8% reduction in the odds of an ADHD diagnosis (95% confidence interval from 1% to 14%).
The authors concluded, "Preschool children who were never breastfed as infants were much more likely to have a medical diagnosis of ADHD than were children who were exclusively breastfed. Moreover, there seems to be a continuum of neuroprotective benefits associated with breastfeeding duration. Although these analyses cannot establish a causal relationship, our findings add to a growing body of literature-including several longitudinal studies and a meta-analysis-that suggests breastfeeding may reduce the likelihood of a child having later problems with inattention and/or hyperactivity. Although follow-up studies are needed to further examine the relationship between infant feeding and ADHD, these findings provide evidence to support the neurodevelopmental benefits of breastfeeding."
There was no association found between ADHD and ASD diagnoses and early antibiotic use when environmental and genetic family factors were taken into account.
Proper development of the gut biota is important for the health of the brain and nervous system. It has been hypothesized that disturbances of gut bacteria by antibiotics could contribute to the development of neurodevelopmental disorders, including ADHD.
In the case of ADHD, studies to date have produced conflicting results. To tease out any familial confounding reflecting shared environment and genetics, a joint Dutch-Swedish team of researchers further tested the hypothesis through 7- to 12-year-old twins in the Netherlands Twin Register (25,781 twins) and 9-year-old twins in the Swedish Twin Registry (7,946 twins).
ADHD symptoms in the Netherlands cohort were derived from mothers' answers to the short Conners' Parental Rating Scale-Revised. For the Swedish cohort, ADHD was determined through the International Classification of Diseases codes for ADHD in the cross-linked National Patient Register.
Exposure to antibiotics during the first two years of childhood was determined by parent reports for the Netherlands twin cohort, and by prescription claims for antibiotics in the Swedish twin cohort.
Covariates were explored in both twin cohorts including educational attainment of parents, gender of the infant, birth weight, delivery mode, and asthma. Breastfeeding was also explored in the Dutch cohort.
In the unmatched analysis, comparing children with ADHD with non-related children without ADHD, early-life antibiotic use was associated with a significant 8% greater odds of ADHD in the Netherlands cohort and a significant 14% greater odds of ADHD in the Swedish cohort.
However, when limiting the analysis to matched monozygotic twins, the association disappeared altogether in both the Dutch and Swedish cohorts. Pooling both cohorts resulted in the same outcome. In all three cases, the odds flipped into a mildly negative association, but with no statistical significance.
Using higher cutoff values for ADHD symptoms made no difference.
The authors concluded, "In this large co-twin study performed in two countries, early-life antibiotic use was associated with increased risk of ADHD and ASD, but the results suggest that the association disappeared when controlled for shared familial environment and genetics, indicating that this association may be susceptible to confounding. Our results indicate that there is no association between ADHD and ASD diagnoses and early antibiotic use when environmental and genetic family factors are taken into account."
Strong association found between gestational exposure to high levels of nitrogen oxide and later ADHD-hyperactive symptoms.
Taiwan's National Birth Registration database tracks every birth. Using all entries from 2005, random sampling was used to create the Taiwan Birth Cohort Study of 24,200 mother-infant pairs, which were geographically distributed and represented 12 percent of all births.
As this was an eight-year longitudinal study, there were dropouts, and 17,256 pairs completed the study. After excluding cases with fetal distress, smoking or alcohol use during pregnancy, and missing information on covariates, the final study population was 16,376.
Participants' addresses during gestation were geocoded to the township level, and local air pollution data was retrieved for the years 2004 to 2006 from air quality monitoring stations administered by Taiwan's Environmental Protection Administration. Every hour, each station records levels of nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and particulate matter of diameter 10 Î¼m or less (PM10).
The Taiwanese research team addressed several potential confounding factors: sex, maternal age, delivery method (cesarean section or not), birth in summer (June-August), urban or rural residence, and annual household income.
Because ADHD is primarily observable as hyperactivity rather than inattention among young children, the team focused on relating symptoms of hyperactivity to levels of air pollutants.
After adjusting for covariates, the team found no significant association between PM10 and SO2 levels and hyperactivity disorder. Nitrogen oxide levels, on the other hand, were associated with more than 25 percent higher odds of hyperactivity.
Breaking that down further, they found no significant association with NO2, and that the 25 percent higher odds were exclusive with nitric oxide (NO), a pollutant emitted by internal combustion engines in cars, trucks, and busses. NO is a free radical, meaning it has an unpaired electron that can damage the body because of its strong chemical reactivity.
The authors noted, "Our study has some limitations. First, hyperactivity was diagnosed based on a parent-reported physician or specialist diagnosis. Although we did not inquire which specialists made these diagnoses, they must have been a pediatrician, psychiatrist, or special education teacher. ... Second, the calculated exposure to ambient air pollutants was not an accurate personal exposure because it did not take indoor air pollutant levels and time-activity patterns into consideration. Applying personal environmental monitoring in such a large sample is impractical, especially when the subjects are pregnant."
Nevertheless, they emphasized, "this is the first study attempting to discover which component of NOx is more critical to the development of hyperactivity in offspring."
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."
After noting that the association between ADHD and obesity has been called into question because of small sample sizes, wide age ranges, self-reported assessments, and inadequate attention to potential confounders, an Israeli study team set out "to assess the association between board-certified psychiatrist diagnoses of ADHD and measured adolescent BMI [body mass index] in a nationally represented sample of over one million adolescents who were medically evaluated before mandatory military service."
The team distinguished between severe and mild ADHD. It also focused on a single age group.
All Israelis are subject to compulsory military service. In preparation for that service, military physicians perform a thorough medical evaluation. Trained paramedics recorded every conscript's height and weight.
The study cohort was divided into five BMI percentile groups according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's BMI percentiles for 17-year-olds, and further divided by sex: <5th percentile (underweight), 5th-49th percentile (low-normal), 50th-84th percentile (high normal), 85th-94th percentile (overweight) and â‰¥95th (obese). Low-normal was used as the reference group.
Adjustments were made for sex, birth year, age at examination, height, country of birth (Israeli or other), socioeconomic status, and education level.
In the fully adjusted results, those with severe ADHD were 32% more likely to be overweight and 84% more likely to be obese than their typically developing peers. Limiting results to Israeli-born conscripts made a no difference.
Male adolescents with mild ADHD were 24% more likely to be overweight, and 42% more likely to be obese. Females with mild ADHD are 33% more likely to be overweight, and 42% more likely to be obese. Again, the country of birth made no difference.
The authors concluded, that both severe and mild ADHD was associated with an increased risk for obesity in adolescents at the age of 17 years. The increasing recognition of the persistence of ADHD into adulthood suggests that this dual morbidity may have a significant impact on the long-term health of individuals with ADHD, thus early preventive measures should be taken.
A South Korean research group studies associations between ADHD-related healthcare visits and short-term exposure to specific air pollutants.
Certain air pollutants can produce free radicals and inflammatory cytokines that can penetrate the central nervous system and affect behavior. Long-term exposure to air pollution has been associated with a higher risk of developing ADHD.
There has, however, been little focus on the short-term effects of exposure. Might there be any correlation between levels of air contaminants and subsequent healthcare visits of adolescents for severe spikes in ADHD symptoms (frequently but not always associated with comorbid conduct disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, or mood disorder), such as extreme hyperactivity, serious rule violations, theft, or aggression to people or animals?
A South Korean (Republic of Korea) research team explored this question through a nationwide cohort study using the database of the National Health Insurance Service, a single-payer system, that covers the entire population.
Using a time-series approach, they compared measured levels of three airborne pollutants - particulate matter with a diameter ≤ 10 μm (PM10), nitrogen oxide (NO2), produced by vehicular traffic, and sulfur dioxide (SO2), produced by manufacturing industries- with healthcare visits with a principal diagnosis of ADHD. They chose these three contaminants because they have been associated with ADHD in long-term studies. What made this approach feasible is that healthcare visits are typically unscheduled in Korea, making it possible to get quick medical attention.
The team divided the country into sixteen regions, looked at boys and girls separately, and also split adolescents into two age groups (10 to 14 years and 15 to 19 years). They estimated region-specific daily concentrations of the three pollutants from 318 government-run monitoring sites, located according to population density and distribution.
The researchers next calculated zero(same day) to five-day lag figures for ADHD-related healthcare visits in each region and ran meta-analyses on the time-series data.
There were 7,200 ADHD-related healthcare visits in the 2013-2015 study period. Major increases in PM10 levels were associated with increased ADHD-related healthcare visits from the day of the spike to three days later, peaking the day after the upturn. Major increases in SO2 levels were associated with increased ADHD-related healthcare visits from one to four days later, peaking the day following the upturn. Major increases in NO2 levels were associated with increased ADHD-related healthcare visits from one to four days later, peaking three days after the spike.
There were no significant differences between male and female adolescents, and between younger and older adolescents.
The strongest increased risk for ADHD-related healthcare visits was for NO2 spikes (up 47 percent), followed by SO2 spikes (up 27 percent), with PM10 spikes coming in last (up 12 percent).
Among the limitations, the authors were unable to evaluate the most hazardous types of particulate emissions, because the smaller-diameter PM2.5 particles (≤2.5 μm) have only been measured partially in South Korea since 2015. On the other hand, they pointed out that this was the first study to investigate associations between short-term air pollution exposure and ADHD-related healthcare visits, and that it included all ADHD-related healthcare visits in South Korea, making the possibility of selection bias negligible. They recommended conducting similar studies on other national populations.
Meta-analysis shows clear correlation between maternal PCOS and offspring ADHD.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder affecting women of reproductive age, characterized by elevated levels of male hormones (androgens). The name is derived from the presence of cysts surrounding the ovum, which cause enlargement of the ovaries. Its cause remains unknown. There is speculation that high androgen levels could affect brain development in the fetus.
A team of Iranian researchers (Maleki et al.) published a twofold meta-analysis earlier this year exploring the relationship between PCOS and offspring ADHD. A systematic search of the peer-reviewed medical literature came up with six studies, consisting of three cohort studies, and three case-control studies.
A meta-analysis of the three case-control studies with a combined total of 79,978 participants found that children of mothers with PCOS were 42 percent more likely to develop ADHD.
A separate meta-analysis of the three cohort studies with a combined total of 325,435 participants produced essentially identical outcomes: children of mothers with PCOS were 43 percent more likely to develop ADHD.
There was no indication of publication bias in either meta-analysis and virtually no heterogeneity. Except for one case-control study, all studies were considered to be of high quality.
The authors concluded, "Our study showed that maternal PCOS is a risk factor for ADHD. Therefore, Screening for ADHD among children of these women should be considered as part of the comprehensive clinical care for women with PCOS."
More recently, a second-team (Dubey et al.), based in Texas, published a meta-analysis on the same subject. Their systematic search produced the same studies, but classified one study described as case-control by Malekiet al. as a cohort study.
Their meta-analysis of four cohort studies with a combined total of over two million participants (they counted participants differently than Maleki et al.) found that children of mothers with PCOS were 43 percent more likely to develop ADHD. Adjusting for confounders made no difference.
Again, there was no indication of publication bias, and between-study heterogeneity was virtually nil.
Considering they relied on the same studies, the fact that both teams reported identical outcomes is unsurprising, confirming there's a clear association between maternal PCOS and ADHD in offspring.
Comorbidities contribute substantially to premature mortality risks in ADHD patients, but even those with ADHD alone are at a 40% greater risk.
The Nordic countries maintain detailed registers of their inhabitants. This enables researchers to examine patterns over entire nations. An international research team used the Swedish national registers for a prospective cohort study of 2,675,615 persons in the Medical Birth Register born in Sweden over 27 years from January 1, 1983, through December 31, 2009. Follow-up was completed in December 2013, with the oldest cohort member aged31. The mean age at study entry was 6, and the mean at follow-up was 11.
Using personal identification numbers, researchers were able to cross-reference with the National Patient Register and the National Drug Register. From this, they determined that 86,670 members of the cohort (3.2percent) had ADHD, based either on records of clinical diagnosis or of prescription of ADHD drugs. Psychiatric comorbidities were likewise identified in the National Patient Register.
These comorbidities were significantly more prevalent in the ADHD population than in the rest of the cohort. For example, whereas only 2.2% of the non-ADHD group was diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD), 13.3% of the ADHD group also had SUD, a six-fold difference. For depression, it was a seven-fold difference; for schizophrenia a nine-fold difference.
The ADHD group had a significantly higher risk of premature death from all causes than the non-ADHD group, with an adjusted hazard ratio(HR) of 3.94 (95% CI 3.51-4.43). Unintentional injury (36%) and suicide (31%)were the leading causes of death in the ADHD group. Those with ADHD were more than eight times more likely to die by suicide than non-ADHD individuals and roughly four times more likely to die from unintentional injury.
The vast majority of the increased risk appears to be associated with comorbid psychiatric conditions. Those with ADHD but no diagnosed comorbidities had an adjusted HR of 1.41 (95% CI 1.01-1.97). With a single comorbidity, the HR more than doubled to 3.71 (95% CI 2.88-4.78). With four or more comorbidities, it rose to a staggering 25.22 (95% CI 19.6-32.46).
The comorbid condition with the greatest impact was SUD, which increased the risk eight-fold by comparison with those with only ADHD (HR= 8.01, 95% CI 6.16-10.41). Anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, and personality disorder increased the risk about fourfold. Bipolar disorder, depression, and eating disorder increased risk by roughly two and a half times.
The co-variate analysis helped tease out what portion of the risk was associated with ADHD alone versus comorbid conditions. Adjusting for the year of birth, sex, birth weight, maternal age at birth, parental educational level, and parental employment status, those with ADHD (including comorbid conditions)were 2.7 times more likely to prematurely die of natural causes than those without. Adjusting for comorbid psychiatric conditions completely eliminated the risk from ADHD alone (HR = 1.01, 95% CI.72-1.42).
Likewise, those with ADHD (including comorbid conditions)were six times as likely to die of unnatural causes. Adjusting for early-onset comorbid disorders (such as conduct disorders, autism spectrum disorder, and intellectual disability) only modestly reduced the HR to 5.3, but further adjusting for later-onset comorbid disorders(including substance use disorder, depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorder, and eating disorders)reduced the HR to 1.57 (95% CI 1.35-1.83), and reduced it to insignificance in the case of suicide (HR = 1.13, 95% CI .88-1.45).
Summing up, the lion's share of the greater risk of premature death in persons with ADHD is attributable to psychiatric comorbidities. Nevertheless, those with ADHD alone still face a 40 percent greater risk than those without ADHD.
The study did not examine the effects of ADHD medication, which the authors state should be analyzed because of documented potential benefits on ADHD symptoms and comorbid disorders.
The authors concluded, Among adults, early-onset psychiatric comorbidity contributed substantially to the premature mortality risks due to natural causes. On the other hand, later-onset psychiatric comorbidity, especially SUD, explained a substantial part of the risk for unnatural deaths, including all the risk of suicide deaths and most of the deaths due to unintentional injuries. These results suggest that overall health conditions and risk of psychiatric comorbidity should be evaluated clinically to identify high-risk groups among individuals with ADHD.
Behavioral disinhibition is a trait associated with both ADHD and several genes that affect dopamine signaling. A new study by three American medical researchers set out to examine how these ADHD risk genes - DRD4 (dopamine 4 receptor density), DAT1 (dopamine 1 transporter), and DBH(dopamine beta-hydroxylase) - affect estimated life expectancy in young adulthood.
The method used was a longitudinal study of 131 hyperactive children and 71 matched controls through early adulthood. The original evaluations were done in 1979-1980, when both groups were children in the 4 to 12 age range. They were reevaluated in1987-1988 as adolescents aged 12 to 20. The next follow-up was in 1992-1996 in early adulthood, aged 19 to 25. The final follow-up was in 1998-2004, for adults aged 24 to 32. All agreed to physical examinations that formed the basis for calculating estimated life expectancy using actuarial tables that factor in the effects of smoking, body mass index, alcohol, and other risk factors of on expected longevity. Participants also provided blood samples that enabled gene typing.
For the DAT1 gene, participants who had the homozygous-repeat allele (9/9) had a five-year reduction in estimated life expectancy relative to those with the ten-repeat allele (10/10). Those with the intermediate (9/10) configuration had a three-year reduction in estimated life expectancy.
For the DBH Taq1 gene, those with a heterozygous (A1/A2) combination had almost a three-year reduction in estimated life expectancy relative to those with homozygous (A1/A1 or A2/A2)configurations.
For DRD4, on the other hand, no significant differences were found in estimated life expectancy.
In a related study, several background traits were found to be significantly predictive of variance estimated life expectancy. The largest of these was behavioral disinhibition, followed by verbal IQ, self-rated hostility, and a nonverbal fluency test. But no significant differences were found between any of the gene polymorphisms on any of these four measures, indicating that the present gene associations were independent of the background traits.
The researchers next sought to determine which variables used in the estimated life expectancy calculations were associated with the two significant genes. For DBH, one variable stood out. Those with the A1/A2 heterozygous pairings had almost twice the alcohol consumption of those with homozygous pairings (p = 0.023).
For DAT1, two variables stood out. Overall, the 9/9 pairings smoked two and a half times as much as the 10/10pairings, with the 9/10 pairings midway between the extremes (p = 0.036). They were also 73 percent more likely to be smokers relative to the 10/10 pairings, and 61 percent more likely relative to the 9/10 pairings. They also had significantly less education than the 10/10 pairings, with the 9/10 pairings again being intermediate (p = 0.027).
An obvious limitation of the study was its small sample size. The authors cautioned, our findings should be considered quite preliminary and in need of much greater research before being given much weight in the literature or public policy.
"With these limitations in mind, they concluded, the present study demonstrated that two ADHD risk genes (DB Hand DAT1) independently contributed to a reduction in ELE [estimated life expectancy] beyond the second-order variables of behavioral disinhibition, IQ, hostility, and nonverbal fluency that contributed in the related study to variation in ELE. The gene polymorphisms seemed to be influencing ELE through their affiliation with first-order or more proximal factors related to ELE such as education, smoking, alcohol use, and possibly exercise."
A team of Iranian researchers recently published a meta-analysis seeking to determine what, if any, association there may be between low vitamin D levels and ADHD in children and adolescents.
Combining the results from thirteen studies with 10,334participants, they found that youth with ADHD had "modest but significant" lower serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D than normally developing children. The weighted mean difference was just under 7 nanograms per milliliter. The odds of obtaining such a result by chance would be less than one in a thousand(p < .001). There was little to no sign of publication bias. Between-study heterogeneity, however, was very high (I2 = 94).
These results suggest an association. But are low serum levels of vitamin D a cause or effect of ADHD? Causation is vastly more difficult to establish than an association. To begin to tease this out, the researchers identified four prospective studies that compared maternal vitamin D levels with the subsequent development of ADHD symptoms in their children. Two of these used maternal serum levels, and two used umbilical cord serum levels. Together, these studies found that low maternal vitamin D levels were associated with a 40% higher risk of ADHD in their children. Whether maternal serum or umbilical cord serum measurements were used had little or no effect on the outcome. Study heterogeneity was negligible. But the authors noted that this result "should be considered with caution" because it was heavily dependent on one of the prospective studies included in the analysis. All of which suggest a need for further prospective studies
In the meantime, the authors suggest it would be prudent to increase sun exposure and vitamin D supplementation, given the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency.
A Danish team recruited 29,489 participants from voluntary blood donors between the ages of 17 and 67, ensuring a large sample size. Participants were asked to complete two simple questionnaires on digital tablets. One asked two questions: "Have you ever had a migraine?" and "Have you ever had visual disturbances lasting 5-60 min followed by a headache?" A yes to either was considered positive for migraine. The other used the ADHD Self-Report Scale, with 18 ADHD symptoms evaluated on a five-point scale.
Excluding those who did not answer all questions left 26,456 participants. The risk for migraines among those with ADHD was near twice the risk for others. The (odds)'s ratio (OR) was 1.8, with a 95 percent confidence interval from 1.53 to 2.12 (p < 0.001). The OR was higher among females (2.01) than males (1.64). For those with visual disturbances, the OR was higher (1.98) than for those without (1.52). The association disappeared in those over 60, with an OR essentially equal to one(0.98, 95% CI = 0.84 - 1.15, p = 0.8).
Although the authors concluded, "We demonstrate a significant comorbidity between migraine and ADHD in adults, and this is most prominent for participants with migraine with visual disturbances," the significance to which they refer is of the p-values, and should not be misinterpreted as an indication of a strong association, as the odds ratios point variably tweak, and weak-to-moderate associations, depending on subpopulations. The work is, however, important as it points to another somatic comorbidity of ADHD. That list is growing and now includes obesity, eczema, and asthma.
A systematic review of the literature found seven studies examining this question. Significantly, six were large cohort studies with a combined total of almost three million individuals. The other was a large case-control study with 7,874 participants.
The largest cohort study, with more than a million and a half children, found that prenatal antidepressant exposure increased the risk for ADHD. The adjusted odds ratio was 1.6forany antidepressant and for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). But sibling comparison models, which better adjust for confounds shared by siblings(e.g., poverty, stress in the home), this study found no increased risk of ADHD.
The second-largest cohort study, with over 875 thousand children, found a small adjusted risk of 1.2 for all antidepressants, with little variation by class of antidepressant. The fourth-largest study, with over 140 thousand children, likewise found a small adjusted risk of 1.2, which barely achieved statistical significance (95% CI 1.0-1.4).
The third-largest study, with over 190 thousand children, obtained an adjusted risk of 1.4 for all antidepressants. But it also pointed to a possible explanation for the small association found in this and other studies, suggesting that the apparent association with antidepressant use was due to ADHD's known genetic association with psychiatric conditions treated by antidepressants.
The fifth-largest study, with more than 55 thousand children, similarly found an adjusted risk of 1.7 for SSRIs and an adjusted risk of 1.7 for an unmediated maternal psychiatric disorder. Again, the underlying psychiatric disorder appears to be confounding the effect of antidepressants.
The sixth-largest study, with over 38 thousand children, found no evidence of any effect from SSRIs. Yet it found evidence of a large effect from bupropion, with an odds ratio of 3.6, and only one in 50 odds of obtaining such a result by chance (p = 0.02). However, it offered no comparison with untreated depression and made no adjustments for potential confounders.
The case-control study found an odds ratio of 2.3 for maternal use of any antidepressant, which dropped to a statistically non-significant 1.6 when adjusted for a maternal psychiatric disorder (95% CI0.66-3.71).
Our genes are very important for the development of mental disorders-including ADHD, where genetic factors capture up to 75% of the risk. Until now, the search for these genes had yet to deliver clear results. In the 1990s, many of us were searching for genes that increased the risk for ADHD because we know from twin studies that ADHD had a robust genetic component. Because I realized that solving this problem required many DNA samples from people with and without ADHD, I created the ADHD Molecular Genetics Network, funded by the US NIMH. We later joined forces with the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PTC) and the Danish psych group, which had access to many samples.
The result is a study of over 20,000 people with ADHD and 35,000 who do not suffer from it - finding twelve locations (loci) where people with a particular genetic variant have an increased risk of ADHD compared to those who do not have the variant. The results of the study have just been published in the scientific journal Nature Genetics, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41588-018-0269-7.
These genetic discoveries provide new insights into the biology behind developing ADHD. For example, some genes have significance for how brain cells communicate with each other, while others are important for cognitive functions such as language and learning.
Our study used the genome-wide association study (GWAS)methodology because it allowed us to discover genetic loci anywhere on the genome. The method assays DNA variants throughout the genome and determines which variants are more common among ADHDvs. control participants. It also allowed for the discovery of loci having very small effects. That feature was essential because prior work suggested that, except for very rare cases, ADHD risk loci would individually have small effects.
The main findings are:
A) we found 12 loci on the genome that we can be certain harbor DNA risk variants for ADHD. None of these loci were traditional candidate genes' for ADHD, i.e., genes involved in regulating neurotransmission systems that are affected by ADHD medications. Instead, these genes seem to be involved in the development of brain circuits.
B) we found a significant polygenic etiology in our data, which means that there must be many loci(perhaps thousands) having variants that increase the risk for ADHD. We will need to collect a much larger sample to find out which specific loci are involved;
We also compared the new results with those from a genetic study of continuous measures of ADHD symptoms in the general population. We found that the same genetic variants that give rise to an ADHD diagnosis also affect inattention and impulsivity in the general population. This supports prior clinical research suggesting that, like hypertension and hypercholesteremia, ADHD is a continuous trait in the population. These genetic data now show that the genetic susceptibility to ADHD is also a quantitative trait comprised of many, perhaps thousands, of DNA variants
The study also examined the genetic overlap with other disorders and traits in analyses that ask the questions: Do genetic risk variants for ADHD increase or decrease the likelihood a person will express other traits and disorders. These analyses found a strong negative genetic correlation between ADHD and education. This tells us that many of the genetic variants which increase the risk for ADHD also make it more likely that a person will perform poorly in educational settings. The study also found a positive correlation between ADHD and obesity, increased BMI, and type-2 diabetes, which is to say that variants that increase the risk of ADHD also increase the risk of overweight and type-2 diabetes in the population. This work has laid the foundation for future work that will clarify how genetic risks combine with environmental risks to cause ADHD. When the pieces of that puzzle come together, researchers will be able to improve the diagnosis and treatment of 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.
All Swedish residents have their health records tracked through unique personal identity numbers. That makes it possible to identify psychiatric and medical disorders with great accuracy across an entire population, in this case encompassing more than five and a half million adults aged 18 to 64. A subgroup of more than 1.6 million persons between the ages of 50 and 64 enabled a separate examination of disorders in older adults.
Slightly over one percent of the entire population (about 61,000) was diagnosed with ADHD at some point as an adult. Individuals with ADHD were nine times as likely to suffer from depression as were adults not diagnosed with ADHD. They were also more than nine times as likely to suffer from anxiety or a substance use disorder, and twenty times as likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. These findings are very consistent with reports from clinical samples in the USA and Europe.
Adults with ADHD also had elevated levels of metabolic disorders, being almost twice as likely to have high blood pressure, and more than twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes. Persons with ADHD but without psychiatric comorbidities were also almost twice as likely to have high blood pressure, and more than twice as likely to have type2 diabetes.
Similar patterns were found in men and women with ADHD, although comorbid depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety were moderately more prevalent in females than in males, whereas substance use disorder, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension were more prevalent in males than in females.
ADHD was less than a third as prevalent in the over-50 population as in the general adult population. Nevertheless, individuals in this older group with ADHD were twelve times as likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, or substance use disorders, and more than 23 times as likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder as their non-ADHD peers. They were also 63% more likely to have high blood pressure, and 72% more likely to have type 2 diabetes.
The authors noted, "Although the mechanisms underlying these associations are not well understood, we know from both epidemiologic and molecular genetic studies that a shared genetic predisposition might account for the coexistence of two or more psychiatric conditions. In addition, individuals with ADHD may experience increased difficulties as the demands of life increase, which may contribute to the development of depression and anxiety." As for associations with hypertension and type 2 diabetes, these "might reflect health risk behaviors among adult patients with comorbid ADHD in addition to a shared biological substrate. As others have noted, inattention, disinhibition, and disorganization associated with ADHD could make it difficult for patients to adhere to treatment regimens for metabolic disorders." They concluded that "Clinicians should remain vigilant for a wide range of psychiatric and metabolic problems in ADHD affected adults of all ages and both sexes."
A team of U.S. endocrinologists recently published the results of a meta-analysis examining a possible association between bisphenol A(BPA) and childhood ADHD. BPA is used in a variety of consumer products, including plastic bottles for food and drink, epoxy resins used to line cans of food, dental sealants, and the thermal receipts issued by stores.
A review of the literature found 29 rodent studies, but only three with humans. The human studies were too different from each other to be suitable for meta-analysis. One found no association between prenatal exposure and ADHD. A second found prenatal BPA exposure to be associated with teacher-reported hyperactivity in 4-year-old boys, but not girls. The third found is to be associated with hyperactivity scores in 3-year-old girls.
As the authors note, "Often, there is little human data available, particularly in the environmental toxicology/health fields, due to the time and expense of conducting epidemiological studies and the ethical barriers for human-controlled trials that involve human exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals. Thus, it is important to have methods for using animal data to inform human health hazard conclusions; indeed, animal models are traditionally used to study human health."
Twelve of the mice and rat studies, with a total of 709 rodents, were suitable for meta-analysis.
Overall these pointed to a tiny SMD effect size of 0.09, but it was not significant, with the odds of such a result being obtained by chance being almost one in four (p = 0.237). But when results from the 356 males and353 females were looked at separately, a significant sex difference emerged. There was essentially no effect on female rodents, with an effect size of -0.07and a 95% confidence interval of -0.27 to 0.14, widely spanning the zero mark, rendering the result statistically non-significant. Among male rodents, however, there was a small but statistically significant effect size (0.24), with a 95%confidence interval from 0.04 to 0.45. The odds of obtaining this outcome by chance were only one in 50 (p = .02).
This result must be viewed with caution, as rodent physiology often differs substantially from that of humans. The authors, therefore, conclude, "early BPA exposure is associated with a presumed hazard of hyperactivity in humans. Our conclusion is based on 'moderate' levels of evidence for the human and 'high' levels of evidence for animal literature."
A Norwegian team based at the University of Bergen recently performed a population study using the country's detailed national health registries. With records from more than two and a half million Norwegians, the team examined what, if any, associations could be found between ADHD and nine autoimmune diseases: ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn's disease, iridocyclitis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis.
After adjusting for age and maternal education, the team found no association between ADHD and five of the nine autoimmune disorders: type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, iridocyclitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis. In the case of ankylosing spondylitis, it found no association with males with ADHD, but a negative association with females. Females with ADHD were less likely to have ankylosing spondylitis. The adjusted odds ratio (AOR) was0.56 (95% CI 0.32-0.96).
Positive associations were found for only three autoimmune diseases. The strongest was for psoriasis, with adjusted odds ratios of 1.6(95% CI 1.5-1.7) for females and 1.3 (95% CI 1.2-1.4) for males. When further adjusted for education, smoking, and body mass index (BMI), however, the adjusted odds ratio for females with ADHD dropped to 1.3 (95% CI 1.0-1.6).
The second-strongest association was with Crohn's disease. But here it was only among women. The odds ratio, in this case, was 1.4 (95% CI 1.2-1.8). Males with ADHD were less likely to have Crohn's disease, with an odds ratio of 0.71 (95% CI 0.54-0.92).
Finally, females with ADHD were slightly more likely to have ulcerative colitis, with a barely significant odds ratio of 1.3 (95% CI 1.1-1.5), while no such association was found for males with ADHD, whose odds ratio was a statistically non-significant 0.9.
Given the large sample size of over two and a half million, this is no underpowered study. It found no association between ADHD and the generic category of autoimmune disorders. Furthermore, it is a stretch to argue that there are any clear and clinically meaningful links between ADHD and any of the specific disorders that were analyzed in this study. The small and often opposite effect sizes may simply reflect limitations with the data (presumed autoimmune disorders were identified based on drugs prescribed), or other unidentified confounding factors.
Several meta-analyses have assessed this question by computing the standardized mean difference or SMD statistic. The SMD is a measure that allows us to compare different studies. For context, the effect of stimulant medication for treating ADHD is about 0.9. SMDs less than 0.3 are considered low, between 0.3 to 0.6 medium, and anything greater than high.
A 2004 meta-analysis by Schab and Trinh combined the results of fifteen studies with a total of 219 participants and found a small association(SMD = .28, 95% CI .08-.49) between consumption of artificial food colors by children and increased hyperactivity. Excluding the smallest and lowest quality studies further reduced the SMD to .21, and a lower confidence limit of .007 also made it barely statistically significant. Publication bias was indicated by an asymmetric funnel plot. No effort was made to correct the bias.
A 2012 meta-analysis by Nigg et al. combined twenty studies with a total of 794 participants and again found a small effect size (SMD =.18, 95% CI .08-.29). It likewise found evidence of publication bias. Correcting for the bias led to a tiny effect size at the outer margin of statistical significance (SMD = .12, 95% CI .01-.23). Restricting the pool to eleven high-quality studies with 619 participants led to a similarly tiny effect size that fell just outside the 95% confidence interval (SMD = .13, CI =0-.25, p = .053). The authors concluded, "Overall, a mixed conclusion must be drawn. Although the evidence is too weak to justify action recommendations absent a strong precautionary stance, it is too substantial to dismiss."
In 2013 a European ADHD Guidelines Group consisting of 21 researchers (Sonuga-Barke et al.) performed a meta-analysis of eight studies involving 294 participants that examined the efficacy of excluding artificial colors from the diets of children and adolescents as a treatment for ADHD. It found a small-to-medium effect size (SMD = .32, 95% CI .06-.58), with less than one in fifty probability that such a result would occur by chance. Yet "Restricting the probably blinded assessment analysis to the four no/low medication trials reduced the standardized mean difference (0.32) to non-significant levels (95%CI=-0.13, 0.77)."
On balance, the research to date suggests a small effect of artificial food colors in aggravating symptoms of hyperactivity in children, and a small beneficial effect of excluding these substances from the diets of children and adolescents, but the evidence is not very robust. More studies with greater numbers of participants, and better control for the effects of ADHD medications, will be required for a more definitive finding.
In the meantime, given that artificial food colors are not an essential part of the diet, parents should consider excluding them from their children's meals, since doing so is risk-free, and the cost (reading labels) negligible.
Roughly one in thirty adult women have ADHD. Research results indicate that psychostimulants (methylphenidate and amphetamines) offer the most effective course of treatment in most instances. But during pregnancy, such treatment also exposes the fetus to these drugs. Several studies have set out to determine whether such exposure is harmful.
The largest comparison was 5,571 infants exposed to amphetamines and 2,072 exposed to methylphenidate with unexposed infants. It found no increased risks for adverse outcomes due to amphetamine or methylphenidate exposures. Another study studied 3,331 infants exposed to amphetamines, 1,515 exposed to methylphenidate, and 453 to atomoxetine. Comparing these infants to unexposed infants, it found a slightly increased risk of preeclampsia, with an adjusted risk ratio of 1.29 (95% CI 1.11-1.49), but no statistically significant effect for placental abruption, small gestational age, and preterm birth. When assessing the two stimulants, amphetamine, and methylphenidate, together, it found a small increased risk of preterm birth, with an adjusted risk ratio of 1.3 (95% CI 1.10-1.55). There was a statistically significant effect for preeclampsia, placental abruption, or small gestational age. Atomoxetine use was free of any indication of increased risk.
Another study involving 1,591 infants exposed to ADHD medication (mostly methylphenidate) during pregnancy, reported increased risks associated with exposure. The adjusted odds ratio for admission to a neonatal intensive care unit was 1.5 (95% CI 1.3-1.7), and for the central nervous system, disorders were 1.9 (95% CI 1.1-3.1). There was no increased risk for congenital malformations or perinatal death.
Six studies focused on methylphenidate exposure. Two, with a combined total of 402 exposed infants, found no increased risk for malformations. Another, with 208 exposed infants, found a slightly greater risk of cardiovascular malformations, but it was not statistically significant. A fourth, with 186 exposed infants, found no increased risk of malformations but did find a higher rate of miscarriage, with an adjusted hazard ratio of 1.98(95% CI 1.23-3.20). A fifth, with 480 exposed infants, also found a higher rate of miscarriage, with an odds ratio of 2.07 (95% CI 1.51-2.84). But although the sixth, with 382 exposed infants, likewise found an increased risk of miscarriage (adjusted relative risk 1.55 with 95% CI1.03-2.06), it also found an identical risk for women with ADHD who were not on medication during their pregnancies (adjusted relative risk 1.56with 95% CI 1.11-2.20). That finding suggests that all women with ADHD have a higher risk of miscarriage, and that methylphenidate exposure is not the causal factor.
Summing up, while some studies have shown increased adverse effects among infants exposed to maternal ADHD medications, most have not. There are indications that higher rates of miscarriage are associated with maternal ADHD rather than fetal exposure to psychostimulant medications. One study did find a small increased risk of central nervous system disorders and admission to a neonatal intensive care unit. But, again, we do not know whether that was due to exposure to psychostimulant medication or associated with maternal ADHD. If there is a risk, it appears to be a small one.
The question then becomes how to balance that as yet uncertain risk against the disadvantage of discontinuing the effective psychostimulant medication. As the authors of this review conclude. It [ADHD] is associated with significant psychiatric comorbidities for women, including depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, driving safety impairment, and occupational impairment. The gold standard treatment includes behavioral therapy and stimulant medication, namely methylphenidate and amphetamine derivatives. Psychostimulant use during pregnancy continues to increase and has been associated with a small increased relative risk of a range of obstetric concerns. However, the absolute increases in risks are small, and many of the best studies to date are confounded by other medication use and medical comorbidities.
Thus, women with moderate-to-severe ADHD should not necessarily be counseled to suspend their ADHD treatment based on these findings. They advise that when functional impairment from ADHD is moderate to severe, the benefits of stimulant medications may outweigh the small known and unknown risks of medication exposure, and that "If a decision is made to take ADHD medication, women should be informed of the known risks and benefits of the medication use in pregnancy, and take the lowest therapeutic dose possible."
A newly-published systematic review by a British team identified48 qualitative and quantitative studies that explored "ADHD in primary care, including beliefs, understanding, attitudes, and experiences." The studies described primary care experiences in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, Singapore, Iran, Pakistan, Brazil, and South Africa.
More than three out of four studies identified deficits in education about ADHD. Of particular concern was the training of primary care providers (PCPs), most of whom received no specific training on ADHD. In most places, a quarter or less of PCPs received such training. Even when such training was provided, PCPs often rated it as inadequate and said they did not feel they could adequately evaluate children with ADHD.
There was even less training for adult ADHD. A 2009 survey of 194 PCPs in Pakistan found that ADHD was not included at all in medical training there and that most learned from colleagues. Half readily admitted to having no competence, and less than one in five were shown to have adequate knowledge about ADHD. In a 2009 survey of 229South African PCPs, only 7 percent reported adequate training in childhood ADHD, and a scant one percent in adult ADHD.
These problems were by no means limited to fewer developed countries. A 2001 U.K. survey of 150 general practitioners found that only 6percent of them had received formal ADHD training. In a 2002 study of 499Finnish PCPs, only half felt confident in their ability to diagnose ADHD. A2005 survey of 405 Canadian PCPs likewise found that only half reported skill and comfort in diagnosis. In a 2009 survey of 400 U.S. primary care physicians, only 13 percent said they had received adequate training. A 2017 study of Swiss PCPs found that only five of the 75 physicians in the sample expressed competence in diagnosis.
Eight studies explored knowledge of DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criteria and clinical guidelines among PCPs. Only a quarter of PCPs were using DSM criteria, and only one in five were using published guidelines. In a 1999 survey of 401 pediatricians in the U.S.and Canada, only 38 percent reported using DSM criteria. A 2004 survey of 723U. S. PCPs found only 44 percent used DSM criteria. In a 2006 UK study of 40general practitioners, only 22 percent were aware of ADHD criteria. In the same year, a survey of 235 U.S. physicians found that only 22 percent were familiar with ADHD guidelines, and 70 percent used child behavior in the office to make a diagnosis. More encouragingly, a 2010 U.S. study reported that the use of APA (American Psychological Association) guidelines by PCPs had expanded markedly between1999 and 2005, from one in eight to one in two.
Given these facts, it is unsurprising that many PCPs expressed a lack of confidence in treating ADHD. In a 2003 survey of 143 South African general practitioners, two-thirds thought it was difficult to diagnose ADHD in college students. A 2012 U.S. study of 1,216 PCPs found that roughly a third lacked confidence in diagnosis and treatment. More than a third said they did not know how to manage adult ADHD. In a 2015 survey of 59 physicians and138 nurses in the U.S., half lacked confidence in their ability to recognize ADHD symptoms. This was especially pronounced among the nurses. A 2001 U.K.survey of 150 general practitioners found that nine out of ten wanted further training on drug treatment, and more than one out of ten were unwilling to prescribe due to insufficient knowledge.
Misconceptions about ADHD were widespread. In a survey of380 U.S. PCPs, almost half thought ADHD medications were addictive, one in five thought ADHD was "caused by poor diet," more than one in seven thought "the child does it on purpose," and one in ten thought medications can cure ADHD. Some studies reported that many PCPs believed ADHD was related to the consumption of sugary food and drink. Others reported a gender bias. A 2002 U.S. study of395 PCPs found that when presented with boys and girls with parent-reported problems, they were significantly more likely to diagnose ADHD in boys.
A 2010 Iranian study of 665 PCPs found that 82 percent believed children adopted ADHD behavior patterns as a strategy to avoid obeying rules and doing assignments. One-third believed sugary food and drink contributed to ADHD. Only 6 percent believed it could be a lifelong condition. Half blamed dysfunctional families. The aforementioned large 2012 U.S. study similarly found that almost half of PCPs believed ADHD was caused by absent or bad parenting. More than half of 399 Australian PCPs surveyed in 2002 believed inadequate parenting played a key role. In a 2003 study of 48 general practitioners in Singapore, a quarter blamed sugar for ADHD. A 2014 survey of 57French pediatricians found that a quarter thought ADHD was a foreign construct imported into France, and 15 percent attributed it to bad parenting. In all, ten studies reported a widespread belief that ADHD was due to bad parenting, with ratios varying from over one in seven PCPs to more than half. They were particularly likely to attribute hyperactivity to dysfunctional families and to dismiss parents' views of hyperactivity as a medical problem as a way to deflect attention from inadequate parenting. While a third of the studies reported on stigma, the surprise was that it did not seem to play as big a role as expected. A 2012study in the Netherlands found that 74 physicians and 154 non-medical professionals matched by age, sex, and education showed no differences in the level of stigmatization toward ADHD.
On the other hand, the studies identified significant resource constraints limiting more effective understanding, diagnosis, and treatment. Given the complex nature of ADHD, the time required to gain relevant information, especially in the context of competing demands on the attention of PCPs, was a limiting factor. Many studies identified a need for better assessment tools, especially for adults.
Another major constraint was PCP's uneasiness about medication. Studies found a widespread lack of knowledge about treatment options, and more specifically the pros and cons of medication relative to other options. This often led to an unwillingness to prescribe.
Yet another limitation was the difficulties PCPs had in communicating with mental health specialists. One study found that less than one in six PCPs received communications from psychiatrists. Much of this was ascribed to "system failure": discontinuity of care, no central accountability, limited resources, buck-passing. Many PCPs were unsure who to turn to. Another problem is often faulty interactions between schools, parents, children, and providers. Parents often fail to keep appointments. Schools and parents often are less than cooperative in providing information. In a 2004 survey of 786 U.S. school nurses, less than half reported good levels of communication between schools and physicians. Schools and parents often apply pressure on PCPs to issue a diagnosis. In the U.S. survey of 723 PCPs, more than half reported strong pressure from teachers to diagnose ADHD, and more than two-thirds said they were under pressure to prescribe medication.
The authors noted, "The need for education was the most highly endorsed factor overall, with PCPs reporting a general lack of education on ADHD. This need for education was observed on a worldwide scale; this factor was discussed in over 75% of our studies, in 12 different countries, suggesting that lack of education and inadequate education was the main barrier to the understanding of ADHD in primary care.
"In addition, "time and financial constraints affect the opportunities for PCPs to seek extra training and education but also affect the communication with other professionals such as secondary care workers, teachers, and parents." The authors cautioned that only eleven of the 48 studies were published since 2010. Also, because it was a systematic review and not a meta-analysis, there was no way to evaluate publication bias.
They concluded, "Better training of PCPs on ADHD is, therefore, necessary but to facilitate this, dedicated time and resources towards education needs to be put in place by the service providers and local authorities."
An international team of researchers has carefully examined the best current evidence and found strong evidence for an association between asthma and ADHD by combining a meta-analysis of prior data with a new analysis of the Swedish population.
The meta-analysis identified 46 datasets with a total of more than 3.3 million persons. It computed an unadjusted (odds)'s ratio (OR) of 1.7, which indicates that ADHD patients have about twice the risk of developing asthma compared with people without ADHD. Limiting the meta-analysis to studies that adjusted for confounding factors, 30 datasets with more than a third of a million participants still led to an adjusted (odds)' ratio of 1.5 (95% CI 1.4 - 1.7). The likelihood of obtaining this result by chance in such a large sample would be less than one in ten thousand.
When the team further checked this result against the results for the Swedish population of more than one and a half million persons, the (odds) ratio was almost identical to 1.6. Adjusting for confounding factors reduced it to 1.5 (95% CI 1.41 - 1.48). That means the findings are very robust: asthma and ADHD are associated, with an (odds)'ratio of 1.5, after adjusting for confounding factors.
What does this small but statistically very reliable association between asthma and ADHD mean? For researchers, it suggests that the two disorders may have common risk factors and that the search for these shared risk factors might lead to improved treatments. These risk factors might also be shared with two other somatic conditions for which ADHD patients are at increased risk: obesity and eczema. Common inflammatory processes may account for this overlap among disorders. Clinicians should be aware that children with asthma have an increased risk for ADHD, although, given the small association, systematic screening may not be warranted. But given that ADHD might interfere with asthma medication compliance, the disorder should be considered among noncompliant youth, especially among those who show other evidence of inattention, poor memory, or disorganization.
An international group of twelve experts recently published a consensus report examining the state of the evidence and offering recommendations to guide the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals with ADHD-SUD comorbidity.
In a clear sign that we are still in the early stages of understanding this relationship, five of the thirteen recommendations received the lowest recommendation grade (D), eight received the next-lowest (C), and none received the highest (A and B). The lower grades reflected the absence of the highest level of evidence, obtained from meta-analyses or systematic reviews of relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs).
Nevertheless, with these limitations in mind, the experts agreed on the following points:
The grade C recommendations included considering adequate medical treatment of both ADHD and SUD; integrating ADHD treatment with SUD treatment as soon as possible;
When my colleagues and I wrote our "Primer" about ADHD,http://rdcu.be/gYyV, the topic of brain mechanisms was a top priority. Because so much has been written about the ADHD brain, it is difficult to summarize. Yet we did it with the eight pictures reproduced here in one figure. A quick overview of this figure shows you the complexity of ADHD's pathophysiology. There is no single brain region or neural circuit that is affected. Figures (a) and (b) show you the main regions implicated by structural and functional neuroimaging studies. As (c) shows, these regions are united by neural networks rich in noradrenalin (aka, norepinephrine) and dopamine, two neurotransmitters whose activity is regulated by medications that treat ADHD. Figure (d) describes two functional networks. The executive control network is, perhaps, the best-described network in ADHD. This network regulates behavior by linking the dorsal striatum with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This network is essential for inhibitory control, self-regulation, working memory, and attention. The Corticocerebellar network is a well-known regulator of complex motor skills. Data also suggest it plays a role in the regulation of cognitive functions. Figure (d) describes the Reward Networks of the brain that link the ventral striatum with the prefrontal cortex. This network regulates how we experience and value rewards and punishments. In addition to its involvement in ADHD, this network has also been implicated in substance use disorders, for which ADHD persons are at high risk. Figures (f)(g) and (h) complete the puzzle with additional regions implicated in ADHD whose role is less well understood. One role for these regions is in the regulation of the Default Mode Network, which controls what the brain does when it is not focused on any specific task (e.g., daydreaming, mind wandering). People differ in the degree to which they shift between the default mode network and networks like Reward or Executive Control, which are active when we engage the world. Recent data suggest that the brains of ADHD people may be in 'default mode' when they ought to be engaged in the world.
Myth: ADHD is caused by poor parenting or teaching.
Parents and teachers are popular targets for those who misunderstand ADHD. This myth posits that ADHD would not exist if parents and teachers were more effective at disciplining and teaching children. From this perspective, ADHD is a failure of society, not a brain disease.
Fact: ADHD occurs when genes and toxic environments harm the brain.
Blaming parents and teachers for ADHD is wrong. We know from research studies that many parents of ADHD children have normal parenting skills and even when we train parents to be better parents, ADHD does not disappear. Many parents of ADHD children have an anon-ADHD child that they raised with the same discipline methods. If bad parenting causes ADHD, all the children in the family should have ADHD. Equally important, decades of research studies have shown that genes and toxic environments cause ADHD by harming the brain. I'm not saying that all parents and teachers are perfect. Teaching parents and teachers, special methods for dealing with ADHD can help children with ADHD.
Myth: Watching Television causes ADHD.
This myth hit the media in 2004 when a research group published a paper suggesting that toddlers who watched too much TV were at risk for attentional problems later in life.
Fact: The study was wrong.
Sometimes researchers get it wrong. But fortunately, science is self-correcting; if an incorrect result is published, subsequent studies will show that it is wrong. That's what happened with the ADHD television study. After the first study made such a media splash, several other researchers did similar studies. They found out that the original study had errors and that watching too much TV does not cause ADHD. But, because the popular media did not pick up the later studies, the myth persists. I'm not recommending that toddlers watch a lot of television, but rest assured that, if they do, it will not cause ADHD.
Myth: Too much sugar causes ADHD.
This idea is based on common sense. Many parents know that when their children and their friends have too much sugary food, they can get very active and out of control.
Fact: Sometimes, common sense is wrong.
As a parent, I thought there was some truth to the sugar myth. But when a colleague, Dr. Wolraich, reviewed the world literature on the topic, he found that there have been many studies on the effect of sugar on children. These studies show that sugar does not affect either the behavior or the thinking patterns of children. Having too much sugar is bad for other reasons, but it does not cause ADHD.
In the popular media, ADHD has sometimes been portrayed as a minor condition or not a disorder at all. It is easy to find websites claiming that ADHD is an invention of the medical profession and that the symptoms used to diagnose the disorder are simply normal behaviors that have been "medicalized". These claims are wrong. They miss the main point of any psychiatric diagnostic process, which is to identify people who experience distress or disability due to a set of well-defined symptoms. So, does ADHD cause serious distress and disability? It is a serious psychiatric condition? To illustrate the strong evidence base for the "Yes" answer to that question, my colleagues and I constructed this infographic for our "Primer" about ADHD,http://rdcu.be/gYyV.It describes the many ways in which the symptoms of ADHD impact and impair the lives of children, adolescents, and adults with the disorder. We divided these 'impacts' into four categories: other disorders (both psychiatric and medical), psychological dysfunction, academic and occupational failure, social disability, and risky behaviors. Let's start with other health problems. We know from many studies that have followed ADHD children into adolescence and adulthood that having the disorder puts patients at risk for several psychiatric disorders, addictions, criminality, learning disabilities, and speech/language disorders. ADHD even increases the risk for-psychiatric diseases such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Perhaps most worrisome is that people with ADHD have a small increased risk for premature death. This increased risk is due in part to their having other psychiatric and medical conditions and also to their risky behaviors which, as research documents, lead to accidents and traumatic brain injuries. In the category of psychological dysfunction,' we highlighted emotional dysregulation, which makes ADHD people quick to anger or fail to tame extreme emotions. Other serious psychological issues are low self-esteem and increased thoughts of suicide, which lead to more suicide attempts than for people without ADHD. This increased risk for suicide is small, but it is real. A more prevalent impact of ADHD is the broad category of social disability, which includes marital discord, poor parenting, legal problems, arrests, and incarceration. This typically starts in youth with poor social adjustment and conflict with parents, siblings, and friends. Another common impact of ADHD is on academic and vocational pursuits. ADHD youth are at risk for underachievement in school, repeating grades, and dropping out. As adults, they are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed, which leads to them having lower incomes than expected for their level of school achievement. So, don't believe anyone who claims that ADHD is not a disorder or is only a mild one. To be sure, there is a wide range of impairments among people with ADHD but, in the absence of treatment, they are at risk for adverse outcomes. Fortunately, the medications that treat ADHD have been documented to reduce this risk, which is why they are typically the first-line treatment for most people with 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.
If you've ever wondered how experts make treatment recommendations for patients with ADHD, take a look at this ADHD treatment decision tree that my colleagues and I constructed for our "Primer" about ADHD,http://rdcu.be/gYyV. Although a picture is worth a thousand words, keep in mind that this infographic only gives the bare bones of a complex process. That said, it is telling that one of the first questions an expert asks is if the patient has a comorbid condition that is more severe than ADHD. The rule of thumb is to treat the more severe disorder first and after that condition has been stabilized plan a treatment approach for the other condition. Stimulants are typically the first-line treatment due to their greater efficacy compared with non-stimulants. When considering any medication treatment for ADHD, safety is the first concern, which is why medical contraindications to stimulants, such as cardiovascular issues or concerns about substance abuse, must be considered. For very young children (preschoolers) family behavior therapy is typically used before medication. Clinicians also must deal with personal preferences. Some parents and some adolescents and adults with ADHD simply don't want to take stimulant medications for the disorder. When that happens, clinicians should do their best to educate them about the costs and benefits of stimulant treatment. If, as is the case for most patients, the doctor takes the stimulant arm of the decision tree, he or she must next decide if methylphenidate or amphetamine is more appropriate. Here there is very little guidance for doctors. Amphetamine compounds are a bit more effective, but can lead to greater side effects. Genetic studies suggest that a person's genetic background provides some information about who will respond well to methylphenidate, but we are not yet able to make very accurate predictions. After choosing the type of stimulant, the doctor must next consider what duration of action is appropriate for each patient. There is no simple rule here; the choice will depend upon the specific needs of each patient. Many children benefit from longer-acting medications to get them through school, homework, and late afternoon/evening social activities. Likewise for adults. But many patients prefer shorter-acting medications, especially as these can be used to target specific times of day and can also lower the burden of side effects. For patients taking down the non-stimulant arm of the decision tree, duration is not an issue but the patient and doctor must choose from among two classes of medications norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or alpha-2-agonists. There are not a lot of good data to guide this decision but, again, genetics can be useful in some cases. Regardless of whether the first treatment is a stimulant or a non-stimulant, the patient's response must be closely monitored as there is no guarantee that the first choice of medication will work out well. In some cases, efficacy is low or adverse events are high. Sometimes this can be fixed by changing the dose, and sometimes a trial of a new medication is indicated. If you are a parent of a child with ADHD or an adult with ADHD, this trial and error approach can be frustrating. But don't lose hope. In the end, most ADHD patients find a dose and a medication that works for them.Last but not least, when medication leads to a partial response, even after adjusting doses and trying different medication types, doctors should consider referring the patient for a non-pharmacologic ADHD treatment. You can read details about these in my other blogs, but here the main point is to find an evidence-based treatment. For children, the biggest evidence base is for behavioral family therapy. For adults, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is the best choice. Except for preschoolers, the experts I worked with on this infographic did not recommend these therapies before medication treatment. The reason is that the medications are much more effective, and many non-pharmacologic treatments (such as CBT) have no data indicating they work well in the absence of medication.
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.
Many media outlets have reported on a study suggesting that mothers who use acetaminophen during pregnancy may put their unborn child at risk for ADHD. Given that acetaminophen is used in many over-the-counter painkillers, correctly reporting such information is crucial. As usual, rather than relying on one study, looking at the big picture using all available studies is best. Because it is not possible to examine this issue with a randomized trial, we must rely on naturalistic studies.
One registry study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24566677)reported that fetal exposure to acetaminophen predicted an increased risk of ADHD with a risk ratio of 1.37. The risk was dose-dependent, in the sense that it increased with increased maternal use of acetaminophen. Of particular note, the authors made sure that their results were not accounted for by potential confounds (e.g., maternal fever, inflammation, and infection). Similar results were reported by another group (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25251831), which also showed that the risk for ADHD was not predicted by maternal use of aspirin, antacids, or antibiotics. But that study only found an increased risk at age 7 (risk ratio = 2.0) not at age 11. In a Spanish study, (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27353198), children exposed prenatally to acetaminophen were more likely to show symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity later in life. The risk ratio was small (1.1) but it increased with the frequency of prenatal acetaminophen use by their mothers.
We can draw a few conclusions from these studies. There does seem to be aweak, yet real, the association between maternal use of acetaminophen while pregnant and subsequent ADHD or ADHD symptoms in the exposed child. The association is weak in several ways: there are not many studies, they are all naturalistic, and the risk ratios are small. So mothers that have used acetaminophen during pregnancy and have an ADHD child should not conclude that their acetaminophen usecausedtheir child's ADHD. On the other hand, pregnant women who are considering the use of acetaminophen for fever or pain should discuss other options with their physician. As with many medical decisions, one must balance competing for risks to make an informed decision.
Find more evidence-based blogs at www.adhdinaduls.com.
You've heard all sorts of misinformation about Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD), whether from friends, the internet, or uninformed press articles. "ADHD is not real." Pharmaceutical companies invented ADHD to make money. I'm just a little ADD. Natural solutions are the best for ADHD treatment.
ADHD symptoms were first described in the late 1700s, primarily among hyperactive boys. It was described variously over 200 years as "fidgeting," "defects of moral control," "hyperkinetic reaction," "minimal brain damage" and eventually ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) in the 1980s and ADHD today.
Because the natural tendency toward hyperactivity decreased with age, ADHD was originally thought to be a developmental disorder that disappeared in mid-to-late adolescence. When medicines were developed and used in ADHD treatment for young boys, physicians stopped prescribing them around mid-adolescence, because it was presumed the condition had been remediated. They were wrong. We know now that ADHD persists into adulthood for about two-thirds of ADHD youth.
ADHD was not widely recognized in girls until the mid-1990s when it became clear that girls, with ADHD, were less disruptive than boys with ADHD, were not being appropriately diagnosed. Girls with ADHD show less of the physical hyperactivity of boys, but suffer from "dreaminess," "lack of focus" and "lack of follow-through."
It was also in the 1990s that ADHD' pervasive comorbidity with depression, anxiety, mood, and autism spectrum disorders was established. At the same time, researchers were beginning to describe deficits in executive functioning and emotional dysregulation that became targets of substantial research in the 21stcentury.
Even with the 1990s recognition that ADHD is a lifetime disorder, equally present (in different forms) in both men and women, medical schools and continuing medical education courses (required for realizing sure of health professionals) have only begun to teach the most up-to-date evidence-based knowledge to the medical community. There still is much misinformation and a lack of knowledge among primary care professionals and the public.
ADHD Throughout the Lifespan
Most cases of ADHD start in Otero before the child is born. As a fetus, the future ADHD person carries versions of genes that increase the risk for the disorder. At the same time, they are exposed to toxic environments. These genetic and environmental risks change the developing brain, setting the foundation for the future emergence of ADHD.
In preschool, early signs of ADHD are seen in emotional lability, hyperactivity, disinhibited behavior and speech, and language and coordination problems. The full-blown ADHD syndrome typically occurs in early childhood, but can be delayed until adolescence. In some cases, the future ADHD person is temporarily protected from the emergence of ADHD due to factors such as high intelligence or especially supportive family and/or school environments. But, as the challenges of life increase, this social, emotional, and intellectual scaffolding is no longer sufficient to control the emergence of disabling ADHD symptoms.
Throughout childhood and adolescence, the emergence and persistence of the disorder are regulated by additional environmental risk factors such as family chaos, as well as the age-dependent expression of risk genes that exert different effects at different stages of development. During adolescence, most cases of ADHD persist and by the teenage years, many youths with ADHD have onset with a mood, anxiety, or substance use disorder. Indeed, parents and clinicians need to monitor ADHD youth for early signs of these disorders. Prompt treatment can prevent years of distress and disability.
By adulthood, the number of comorbid conditions increases, including obesity, which likely impacts future medical outcomes. Emerging data shows people with ADHD to be at increased risk for hypertension and diabetes. ADHD adults tend to be very inattentive, but show fewer symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. They remain at risk for substance abuse, low self-esteem, injuries due to accidents, occupational failure, and social disability, especially if they are not treated for the disorder.
Seven Important Concepts About ADHD
There are approximately 10 million U.S. adults with ADHD, 9 million of whom are undiagnosed. But with diligent research by the medical profession, we have learned seven important concepts about ADHD:
1. ADHD has been documented worldwide in 5% of the population.
2. Sixty-seven percent of ADHD children grow into ADHD adults and seniors. ADHD is heritable, runs in families, and is impacted by the physical environment and familial lifestyle.
3. In youth, rates of ADHD are higher in males than females as males, but these rates even out by adulthood.
4. ADHD coexists and is often masked by several other disordersâ€”anxiety, depression, spectrum bipolar and autism disorder, substance abuse, alcoholism, obesity, risky behaviors, disorganized lives, working memory deficits, and significant executive dysfunctions that affect personal, social and work success.
5. ADHD medications(stimulants and non-stimulants) are the most effective treatments for ADHD symptoms. Psychological support/training designed for ADHD, and lifestyle modifications, are important adjuncts to medicine.
6. ADHD costs the U.S.economy more than $100 million annually in lost productivity, accidents, hospitalizations with comorbidities, and family and professional support for ADHD patients.
7. ADHD is diagnosable and safely treatable in trained primary care practices.
How do you know if you or someone you love has ADHD? Evaluate your life against the seven concepts above. Then get screened and diagnosed by a health care professional. The diagnosis of ADHD should be done only by a licensed clinician who has been trained in ADHD. That clinician should have one goal in mind: to plan a safe and effective course of evidence-based treatment.
When diagnosing adults, it is also useful to collect information from a significant other, which can be a parent for young adults Ora spouse for older adults. But when such individuals are not available, diagnosing ADHD based on the patient's self-report is valid. Just remember that person, work, and family lives are improved with treatment. Research and technology related to ADHD improve all the time.
ADHD in Adults is a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about ADHD, with evidence-based information and education for both healthcare professionals and the public. The website also features a new ADHD screener for predicting the presence of ADHD in adults.
Stephen V. Faraone, Ph.D., is a Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience & Physiology at SUNY Update Medical University and a global expert on Adult ADHD.
The Nordic countries maintain detailed registers of their inhabitants. This enables researchers to examine patterns over entire nations. An international research team used the Swedish national registers for a prospective cohort study of 2,675,615 persons in the Medical Birth Register born in Sweden over a 27-year period from January 1, 1983, through December 31, 2009. Follow-up was completed in December 2013, with the oldest cohort member aged 31. The mean age at study entry was 6, and the mean at follow-up was 11.
Using personal identification numbers, researchers were able to cross-reference with the National Patient Register and the National Drug Register. From this they determined that 86,670 members of the cohort (3.2 percent) had ADHD, based either on records of clinical diagnosis or of prescription of ADHD drugs. Psychiatric comorbidities were likewise identified in the National Patient Register.
These comorbidities were significantly more prevalent in the ADHD population than in the rest of the cohort. For example, whereas only 2.2% of the non-ADHD group was diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD), 13.3% of the ADHD group also had SUD, a six-fold difference. For depression, it was a seven-fold difference, for schizophrenia a nine-fold difference.
The ADHD group had a significantly higher risk of premature death from all causes than the non-ADHD group, with an adjusted hazard ratio (HR) of 3.94 (95% CI 3.51-4.43). Unintentional injury(36%) and suicide (31%) were the leading causes of death in the ADHD group. Those with ADHD were more than eight times more likely to die by suicide than non-ADHD individuals, and roughly four times more likely to die from unintentional injury.
The vast majority of the increased risk appears to be associated with comorbid psychiatric conditions. Those with ADHD but no diagnosed comorbidities had an adjusted HR of 1.41 (95% CI 1.01-1.97). With a single comorbidity, the HR more than doubled to 3.71 (95% CI 2.88-4.78). With four or more comorbidities, it rose to a staggering 25.22 (95% CI 19.6-32.46).
The comorbid condition with the greatest impact was SUD, which increased the risk eight-fold by comparison with those with only ADHD (HR = 8.01, 95% CI 6.16-10.41). Anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, and personality disorder increased the risk about fourfold. Bipolar disorder, depression, and eating disorder increased risk by roughly two and a half times.
Co variate analysis helped tease out what portion of the risk was associated with ADHD alone versus comorbid conditions. Adjusting for the year of birth, sex, birth weight, maternal age at birth, parental educational level, and parental employment status, those with ADHD (including comorbid conditions) were 2.7 times more likely to prematurely die of natural causes than those without. Adjusting for comorbid psychiatric conditions completely eliminated the risk from ADHD alone (HR = 1.01, 95% CI .72-1.42).
Likewise, those with ADHD (including comorbid conditions) were six times as likely to die of unnatural causes. Adjusting for early-onset comorbid disorders(such as conduct disorders, autism spectrum disorder, and intellectual disability) only modestly reduced the HR to 5.3, but further adjusting for later-onset comorbid disorders (including substance use disorder, depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorder, and eating disorders) reduced the HR to 1.57 (95% CI 1.35-1.83), and reduced it to insignificance in the case of suicide (HR = 1.13, 95% CI.88-1.45).
Summing up, the lion’s share of the greater risk of premature death in persons with ADHD is attributable to psychiatric comorbidities. Nevertheless, those with ADHD alone still face a 40 percent greater risk than those without ADHD.
The study did not examine effects of ADHD medication, which the authors state “should be analyzed because of documented potential benefits on ADHD symptoms and comorbid disorders.”
The authors concluded, “Among adults, early-onset psychiatric comorbidity contributed substantially to the premature mortality risks due to natural causes. On the other hand, later-onset psychiatric comorbidity, especially SUD, explained a substantial part of the risk for unnatural deaths, including all the risk of suicide deaths and most of the deaths due to unintentional injuries. These results suggest that overall health conditions and risk of psychiatric comorbidity should be evaluated clinically to identify high-risk groups among individuals with ADHD.”
Behavioral disinhibition is a trait associated with both ADHD and several genes that affect dopamine signaling. Anew study by three American medical researchers set out to examine how threaded risk genes – DRD4 (dopamine 4 receptor density), DAT1 (dopamine 1transporter), and DBH (dopamine beta-hydroxylase) – affect estimated life expectancy in young adulthood.
The method used was a longitudinal study of 131 hyperactive children and 71 matched controls through early adulthood. The original evaluations were done in 1979-1980, when both groups were children in the 4 to 12 age range. They were reevaluated in1987-1988 as adolescents aged 12 to 20. The next follow-up was in 1992-1996 in early adulthood, aged 19 to 25. The final follow-up was in 1998-2004, as adults aged 24 to 32. All agreed to physical examinations that formed the basis for calculating estimated life expectancy using actuarial tables that factor in the effects of smoking, body mass index, alcohol, and other risk factors on expected longevity. Participants also provided blood samples that enabled gene typing.
For the DAT1gene, participants who had the homozygous nine-repeat allele (9/9) had an a five-year reduction in estimated life expectancy relative to those with the ten-repeat allele (10/10). Those with the intermediate (9/10) configuration had a three-year reduction in estimated life expectancy.
For the DBHTaq1 gene, those with a heterozygous (A1/A2) combination had almost a three-year reduction in estimated life expectancy relative to those with homozygous (A1/A1 or A2/A2) configurations.
For DRD4, on the other hand, no significant differences were found for estimated life expectancy.
In a related study, several background traits were found to be significantly predictive of variance in estimated life expectancy. The largest of these was behavioral disinhibition, followed by verbal IQ, self-rated hostility, and a nonverbal fluency test. But no significant differences were found between any of the gene polymorphisms on any of these four measures, indicating that the present gene associations were independent of the background traits.
The researchers next sought to determine which variables used in the estimated life expectancy calculations were associated with the two significant genes. For DBH, one variable stood out. Those with the A1/A2 heterozygous pairings had almost twice the alcohol consumption of those with homozygous pairings (p = 0.023).
For DAT1, two variables stood out. Overall, the 9/9 pairings smoked two and a half times as much as the 10/10 pairings, with the 9/10 pairings midway between the extremes(p = 0.036). They were also 73 percent more likely to be smokers relative to the 10/10 pairings, and 61 percent more likely relative to the 9/10 pairings. They also had significantly less education than the 10/10 pairings, with the 9/10pairings again being intermediate (p = 0.027).
An obvious limitation of the study was its small sample size. The authors cautioned, “our findings should be considered quite preliminary and in need of much greater research before being given much weight in the literature or in public policy.
“With these limitations in mind,” they concluded, “the present study demonstrated that two ADHD risk genes (DBH and DAT1) independently contributed to a reduction in ELE [estimated life expectancy] beyond the second order variables of behavioral disinhibition, IQ, hostility, and nonverbal fluency that contributed in the related study to variation in ELE. The gene polymorphisms seemed to be influencing ELE through their affiliation with first-order or more proximal factors related to ELE such as education, smoking, alcohol use, and possibly exercise.”
ADHD is underdiagnosed and most cases of ADHD in adults are not being diagnosed by clinicians.
A cohort study looked at over five million adults and over 850,000 children between the ages of five and eleven who received care at Kaiser Permanente Northern California during the ten-year period from the beginning of 2007 through the end of 2016. At any given time, KPNC serves roughly four million persons. It is representative of the population of the region, except for the highest and lowest income strata.
Among adults rates of ADHD diagnosis rose from 0.43% to 0.96%. Among children the diagnosis rates rose from 2.96% to 3.74%, ending up almost four times as high as for adults.
Non-Hispanic whites had the highest adult rates throughout, increasing from 0.67% in 2007 to 1.42% in 2016. American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN) had the second highest rates, rising from 0.56% to 1.14%. Blacks and Hispanics had roughly comparable rates of diagnosis, the former rising from 0.22% to 0.69%, the latter from 0.25% to 0.65%. The lowest rates were among Asians (rising from 0.11% to 0.35%) and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders (increasing from 0.11% to 0.39%).
The odds of diagnosis dropped steeply with age among adults. Relative to 18-24-year-olds, 25-34-year-olds were 1/6th less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, 35-44-year-olds 1/3rd less likely, 45-54-year-olds less than half as likely, 55-64-year-olds less than a quarter as likely, and those over 65 about a twentieth as likely. This is consistent with other studies reporting an age-dependent decline in the diagnosis.
Adults with the highest levels of education were twice as likely to be diagnosed as those with the lowest levels. But variations in median household income had almost no effect. Women were marginally less likely to be diagnosed than men.
ADHD is associated with some other psychiatric disorders. Compared with normally developing adults, and adjusted for confounders, those with ADHD were five times as likely to have an eating disorder, over four times as likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder or depression, more than twice as likely to suffer from anxiety, but only slightly more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol.
The authors speculate that rising rates of diagnosis “could reflect increasing recognition of ADHD in adults by physicians and other clinicians as well as growing public awareness of ADHD during the decade under study.” Turning to the strong differences among ethnicities, they note, “Racial/ethnic differences could also reflect differential rates of treatment-seeking or access to care. … Racial/ethnic background is known to play an important role in opinions on mental health services, health care utilization, and physician preferences. In addition, rates of diagnosis- seeking to obtain stimulant medication for nonmedical use may be more common among white vs nonwhite patients.” They conclude, “greater consideration must be placed on cultural influences on health care seeking and delivery, along with an increased understanding of the various social, psychological, and biological differences among races/ethnicities as well as culturally sensitive approaches to identify and treat ADHD in the total population.”
But the main take-home message of this work is that most cases of ADHD in adults are not being diagnosed by clinicians. We know from population studies, worldwide, that about three percent of adults suffer from the disorder. This study found that less than 1 percent are diagnosed by their doctors. Clearly, more education is needed to teach clinicians how to identify, diagnose and treat ADHD in adults.