, Volume 25, Issue 9, pp 737-763
Date: 11 Dec 2012

Efficacy and Tolerability of Pharmacotherapies for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Adults

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Abstract

This review examines the evidence regarding the efficacy and tolerability of long- and short-acting stimulant medications, as well as the non-stimulant medications atomoxetine and bupropion in the treatment of adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Effect sizes in adults appear to be of almost the same magnitude as in school-age children when robust doses are used. There are adequate data demonstrating short-term efficacy and safety of medication in ADHD during adulthood but long-term studies are lacking, particularly in view of concerns regarding cardiovascular adverse events. There is some evidence that stimulant medication can improve driving performance in adults with ADHD. The extent to which medication may improve academic, occupational and social functioning in adults with ADHD is unclear, and future research should investigate these outcomes. Medication treatment of adults with ADHD in sports is controversial.

Both stimulant and non-stimulant medications seem to be well tolerated. Monitoring of pulse and blood pressure is recommended with these drugs because of their cardiovascular effects. There have been extremely rare case reports of sudden death in adults and children treated with stimulants and atomoxetine, but it is difficult to clearly establish causality. In view of reports of treatment-related suicide-related behaviour with atomoxetine, it is recommended that adults should be observed for agitation, irritability, suicidal thinking, self-harming or unusual behaviour, particularly in the first months of treatment, or after a change of dose.

ADHD in adults continues to remain an under-recognized disorder in many parts of the world and there is a lack of specialist clinics for assessment and treatment of adult ADHD. Studies to date have failed to show efficacy of medications in the treatment of ADHD in the substance misuse population. There is little evidence so far to suggest an increased misuse of stimulants or diversion amongst substance misusers; however, data are insufficient to draw firm conclusions. Further work is necessary to evaluate effective treatments in subgroups such as the substance misuse population, those with multiple comorbidities and different ADHD subtypes.