December 6, 2023

Methylphenidate reduces risk of burn injury in children with ADHD in nationwide population cohort study

Children with ADHD are at higher risk of getting severe burns than normally-developing children. Burn injuries can be traumatic, imposing physical, psychological, and economic burdens on children, their families, and society. Methylphenidate is known to be effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. Can it also reduce the risk of burn injuries?

A team of Taiwanese researchers collaborating with two British researchers explored that question by looking at a nationwide population cohort. Taiwan has a single-payer national health insurance system that includes the entire population (99.6 percent coverage). Using Taiwan's National Health Insurance Research Database(NHIRD), they identified over 90,000 youths under 18 years old with a diagnosis of ADHD. Youths who had burned injuries before diagnosis were excluded. ADHD youths were further divided into three groups: those not prescribed methylphenidate (over 22,000), those prescribed methylphenidate for less than 90 days (over 17,500), and those prescribed methylphenidates for 90 days or more(over 50,000).

Because methylphenidate is the only approved stimulant in Taiwan, it was the only stimulant analyzed in this study. Atomoxetine, a non-stimulant, is also approved in Taiwan, but only for those whose, outcomes with methylphenidate are suboptimal. It was only used by 4 percent of those on ADHD medication, and generally after prior use of methylphenidate, so there was no way to evaluate its effectiveness. Among ADHD youths not on methylphenidate, the proportion who got burn injuries was 6.7 percent. That dropped to 4.5 percent for those medicated for under 90 days, and to 2.9 percent for those on longer-term medication.

Calculations indicated that half of all burn injuries could have been prevented if all youths had been on methylphenidate. After adjusting for multiple confounders - seizure, intellectual disability, autism, conduct disorder, opposition defiant disorder, anxiety, depression, and psychotropic use (benzodiazepine, Z-drugs, antipsychotics, and antidepressants) that taking methylphenidate for any length of time was 38 percent less likely to suffer burn injuries. Moreover, longer-term medication had a greater beneficial effect. Those taking methylphenidate for under 90 days were 30 percent less likely to get burn injuries, whereas those taking it for 90 or more days were less than half as likely to get burn injuries as those not on methylphenidate.

The authors emphasized, "This nationwide population-based study has several strengths. First, the nationally representative sample was substantial and minimized selection bias. Second, patients with ADHD were identified through physician-based diagnoses. Third, all MPH [methylphenidate] prescriptions are recorded in the NHIRD, avoiding misclassification bias. Also, by excluding burn injuries before ADHD diagnosis, the reverse causal relationship between ADHD and burn injury was eliminated."

Vincent Chin-HungChen, Yao-Hsu Yang, Ting Yu Kuo, Mong-Liang Lu, Wei-Ting Tseng, Tsai-Yu Hou, Jia-Ying Yeh, Charles Tzu-Chi Lee, Yi-Lung Chen, Min-Jing Lee, Michael E. Dewey, and Michael Gossop, "Methylphenidate and the risk of burn injury among children with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder," Epidemiology and psychiatric Sciences (2020), 29, e146, 1-7,

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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