March 18, 2024

Meta-analysis Finds Certain ADHD Meds Associated with Headaches, But Others Are Not

An international study team has just reported findings from a series of meta-analyses exploring associations between ADHD medications and headaches in children and adolescents. 

First, to compare headache occurrence in individuals with ADHD to those without ADHD, the team performed a very large meta-analysis of twelve studies with over 2.7 million children and adolescents. Those with ADHD had twice the rate of headaches. 

There was no indication of publication bias, but there was considerable variation (heterogeneity) among studies, with crude odds ratios spanning from 0.9 to 3.37. Nevertheless, ten of the twelve studies pointed to higher odds among children and adolescents with ADHD. The four studies that controlled for age, sex, race, and other socioeconomic status variables reaffirmed the finding of a doubling of headache risk, this time with acceptable heterogeneity.

Three studies with a combined 7,755 participants found no difference in tension headaches, but five studies with over a quarter million persons found more than a doubling of the rate of migraine in children and adolescents with ADHD.

Next, the team performed meta-analyses of 58 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of specific ADHD medications that met eligibility criteria for their systematic review. Because only a single eligible RCT apiece looked at bupropion and clonidine, these ADHD medications could not be included in the meta-analyses.

A meta-analysis of ten RCTs with a total of 2,672 participants found absolutely no association between use of amphetamines (including lisdexamphetamine) and headaches. Variation (heterogeneity) between studies was minimal, and there was no sign of publication bias.

A smaller meta-analysis of six RCTs with a combined 818 participants found a 24% increase in headaches among modafinil users, but it was not statistically significant, perhaps because of the much smaller combined sample size.

A meta-analysis of 17 RCTs with a total of 3,371 participants found a 33% increase in headache occurrence among methylphenidate users over placebo. Between-study variation (heterogeneity) was negligible, and there was absolutely no sign of publication bias. 

Similarly, a meta-analysis of 22 RCTs with a combined 3,857 participants reported a 29% increase in headache occurrence among atomoxetine users over placebo. Again, heterogeneity between studies was negligible, with absolutely no indication of publication bias.

Finally, a meta-analysis of eight RCTs with 1,956 participants found a 43% increase in headache occurrence among guanfacine users over placebo. Once again, with negligible heterogeneity and no indication of publication bias.

Pei-Yin Pan, Ulf Jonsson, Sabriye Selin Şahpazoğlu Çakmak, Alexander Häge, Sarah Hohmann, Hjalmar Nobel Norrman, Jan K. Buitelaar, Tobias Banaschewski, Samuele Cortese, David Coghill, and Sven Bölte, “Headache in ADHD as comorbidity and a side effect of medications: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” Psychological Medicine (2022) 52, 14-25,

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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