November 21, 2021

Safety of long-term methylphenidate treatment of adults with ADHD

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bernhard Kis, Caroline Lücke, Mona Abdel-Hamid, Philipp Heßmann, Erika Graf, Mathias Berger, Swantje Matthies, Patricia Borel, Esther Sobanski, Barbara Alm, Michael Rösler, Wolfgang Retz, Christian Jacob, Michael Colla, Michael Huss, Thomas Jans, Ludger Tebartz van Elst, Helge H. O. Müller, Alexandra Philipsen, "Safety Profile of Methylphenidate Under Long-Term Treatment in Adult ADHD Patients - Results of the COMPAS Study," Pharmacopsychiatry (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