Lenard Adler, MD ADHD in AdultsUstun et al. (2017) recently published an updated version of the adult ADHD screener which is validated for DSM-5: the ASRS v1.1 Screener: DSM-5. The prior DSM-IV version of the screener was established using two populations: a community-based sample from the National Co-Morbidity Survey (NCS-R) and a sample of individuals from a health care plan.

The first step was to recalibrate the new screener using these same two samples, but applying updated DSM-5 criteria; symptoms included not only core symptoms of inattention (IA) and hyperactivity-impulsivity (HI) as defined in DSM, but additional co-traveling symptoms of executive dysfunction (eg: deficits in organization, planning, working memory) or emotional dysregulation (eg: over emotionality, changeable mood).

The symptoms of executive dysfunction have been shown to carry a high symptom burden and in many ways drive the symptom presentation when present in a recent factor analysis (Adler et al. 2017). The selection and weighting of the symptoms was selected by SLIM artificial intelligence – six items were selected: four were from DSM classic symptoms of IA and HI, but two were symptoms of executive dysfunction beyond those defined in the DSM. The process was again repeated and validated in a new sample of referred individuals for ADHD evaluations and controls from primary care practices from the NYU School of Medicine as second validation. The screener is again self-report and rated on a frequency basis of 0-4 (never to very often), with a cut-off score of > = 14 indicating a positive screen. The weighting of items in the screener is not evenly distributed and the scoring algorithm will shortly be available through an educational program on this website.

The ASRS v1.1 Sceener: DSM-5 has a high degree of sensitivity and specificity (first sample: 91.4%; 96.0%, respectively; second NYU sample: 91.9%, 74.0%, respectively). Given the high sensitivity and specificity, the new screener can be a highly effective tool for clinicians to identify individuals at risk for adult ADHD who merit further evaluation and a full diagnostic evaluation.

REFERENCES
Adler LA, Faraone SV, Spencer TJ, Berglund P, Alperin S, Kessler RC. The structure of adult ADHD. Int J Methods Psychiatr Res. 2017 Mar;26(1). doi: 10.1002/mpr.1555. Epub 2017 Feb 17.

Ustun B, Adler LA, Rudin C, Faraone SV, Spencer TJ, Berglund P, Gruber MJ, Kessler RC. The World Health Organization Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Self-Report Screening Scale for DSM-5. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017 May 1;74(5):520-526. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.0298.

Stephen V. Faraone, PhDAn international group of twelve experts recently published a consensus report examining the state of the evidence and offering recommendations to guide screening, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals with ADHD-SUD comorbidity.1

In a clear sign that we are still in the early stages of understanding this relationship, five of the thirteen recommendations received the lowest recommendation grade (D), eight received the next-lowest (C), and none received the highest (A and B).

The lower grades reflected the absence of the highest level of evidence, obtained from meta-analyses or systematic reviews of relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

Nevertheless, with these limitations in mind, the experts agreed on the following points:

ADHD Diagnosis

  • The strongest recommendation, the only one based on a 2+ level of evidence (well-conducted case control or cohort studies with a low risk of confounding or bias and a moderate probability that the relationship is causal) is that the “Short Version of the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-SV) screener is currently the most widely used and investigated screening tool in individuals with ADHD and comorbid SUD, with good sensitivity and specificity across studies.”
  • Two other recommendations were graded C: The diagnostic process should include current and past substance abuse and seek to involve partners and relatives in evaluating symptoms and functional impairments.
  • Four recommendations got the lowest grade, D. The experts suggested starting the diagnostic process as soon as possible and focusing on drug- and alcohol-free periods in the patient’s life during history taking. They also recommended that physicians and clinical psychologists should only make diagnoses if they have extensive training in diagnosing ADHD, as well as experience with adults with ADHD and with addiction care, and that they should consider treating adults with sufficiently severe ADHD symptoms.

ADHD Treatment

  • In general, evidence was stronger in this area, and only one of the six recommendations was graded D. The other five recommendations were graded C, with the highest level of evidence being 2 (cohort or case and control studies with undetermined risk of bias), although in three cases it was level 3 (non-analytical studies, such as case reports and case series).
  • The grade D recommendation was to always consider a combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.
  • The grade C recommendations included considering adequate medical treatment of both ADHD and SUD; integrating ADHD treatment with SUD treatment as soon as possible; considering psychotherapy targeting both; use of long-acting methylphenidate, extended-release amphetamines, and atomoxetine because of their low potential for abuse; and careful clinical management to avoid abuse and diversion of prescribed stimulants.

Note: Andrew Reding is a co-author on this post.

REFERENCES
1Cleo L. Crunelle at al., “International Consensus Statement on Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment of Substance Use Disorder Patients with Comorbid Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder,” European Addiction Research, published online March 6, 2018, DOI: 10.1159/000487767.