March 5, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Le Zhang, AndreasReif, Ebba Du Rietz, Tyra Lagerberg, Agnieszka Butwicka, Brian M. D'Onofrio, Kristina Johnell, Nancy L. Pedersen, Henrik Larsson, and Zheng Chang, "Comedicationand Polypharmacy With ADHD Medications in Adults: A Swedish Nationwide Study," Journal of Attention Disorders (2020),

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News Tuesday: Fidgeting and ADHD

A recent study delved into the connection between fidgeting and cognitive performance in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Recognizing that hyperactivity often manifests as fidgeting, the researchers sought to understand its role in attention and performance during cognitively demanding tasks. They designed a framework to quantify meaningful fidgeting variables using actigraphy devices.

(Note: Actigraphy is a non-invasive method of monitoring human rest/activity cycles. It involves the use of a small, wearable device called an actigraph or actimetry sensor, typically worn on the wrist, similar to a watch. The actigraph records movement data over extended periods, often days to weeks, to track sleep patterns, activity levels, and circadian rhythms. In this study, actigraphy devices were used to measure fidgeting by recording the participants' movements continuously during the cognitive task. This data provided objective, quantitative measures of fidgeting, allowing the researchers to analyze its relationship with attention and task performance.)

The study involved 70 adult participants aged 18-50, all diagnosed with ADHD. Participants underwent a thorough screening process, including clinical interviews and ADHD symptom ratings. The analysis revealed that fidgeting increased during correct trials, particularly in participants with consistent reaction times, suggesting that fidgeting helps sustain attention. Interestingly, fidgeting patterns varied between early and later trials, further highlighting its role in maintaining focus over time.

Additionally, a correlation analysis validated the relevance of the newly defined fidget variables with ADHD symptom severity. This finding suggests that fidgeting may act as a compensatory mechanism for individuals with ADHD, aiding in their ability to maintain attention during tasks requiring cognitive control.

This study provides valuable insights into the role of fidgeting in adults with ADHD, suggesting that it may help sustain attention during challenging cognitive tasks. By introducing and validating new fidget variables, the researchers hope to standardize future quantitative research in this area. Understanding the compensatory role of fidgeting can lead to better management strategies for ADHD, emphasizing the potential benefits of movement for maintaining focus.

July 16, 2024

Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

NEWS TUESDAY: Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

A recent study investigated the presence of autistic-like symptoms in children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Given the overlapping social difficulties in both ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), distinguishing between the two disorders can be challenging. This study aims to pinpoint specific patterns of autistic symptoms in children with ADHD, comparing them to those with ASD using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, 2nd edition (ADOS-2).

The research involved 43 school-age children divided into two groups:

  • ADHD Group (25 children): Initially referred for ASD symptoms but later diagnosed with ADHD.
  • ASD Group (18 children): Children diagnosed with ASD.

Researchers used ADOS-2 to evaluate differences in communication deficits, social interaction challenges, and repetitive behaviors between the two groups. The study also compared IQ, age, ADOS-2 domain scores, and externalizing/internalizing problems.

Key Findings:

  • Significant differences were found between the ADHD and ASD groups in ADOS-2 domain scores, including Social Affect, Restricted and Repetitive Behavior, and Total Score.
  • On an individual item level, children with ADHD displayed similar atypical behaviors as those with ASD in social-communication areas such as "Pointing" and "Gestures".
  • Both groups showed comparable frequencies in behaviors like "Stereotyped/idiosyncratic words or phrases", "Mannerisms", and "Repetitive interests and behaviors".

The study highlights the importance of identifying transdiagnostic domains that overlap between ADHD and ASD. The transdiagnostic domain refers to a set of symptoms or behaviors that are common across multiple diagnostic categories rather than being specific to just one. Identifying these domains in mental health practice and in psychological research is crucial to understanding, properly diagnosing, and treating conditions with overlapping features. This understanding could pave the way for tailored treatments addressing the specific needs of children with ADHD, particularly those exhibiting autistic-like symptoms.

July 9, 2024

Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

NEW STUDY: Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults is commonly treated with stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and amphetamines. However, not all patients respond well to these stimulants or tolerate them effectively. For such cases, non-stimulant medications provide an alternative treatment approach.

Recent research by Brancati et al. reviews the efficacy and safety of non-stimulant medications for adult ADHD. Atomoxetine, a well-studied non-stimulant, has shown significant effectiveness in treating ADHD symptoms in adults. The review highlights the importance of considering dosage, treatment duration, safety, and the presence of psychiatric comorbidities when prescribing atomoxetine.

Additionally, certain antidepressants, including tricyclic compounds, bupropion, and viloxazine, which possess noradrenergic or dopaminergic properties, have demonstrated efficacy in managing adult ADHD. Antihypertensive medications, especially guanfacine, have also been found effective. Other medications like memantine, metadoxine, and mood stabilizers show promise, whereas treatments like galantamine, antipsychotics, and cannabinoids have not yielded positive results.

The expert opinion section of the review emphasizes that while clinical guidelines primarily recommend atomoxetine as a second-line treatment, several other non-stimulant options can be utilized to tailor treatments based on individual patient needs and comorbid conditions. Despite these advancements, the authors call for further research to develop and refine more personalized treatment strategies for adults with ADHD.

This review underscores the growing landscape of non-stimulant treatment options, offering hope for more personalized and effective management of ADHD in adults.

June 25, 2024