Lenard Adler, MD ADHD in AdultsSilverstein et al. (2017) recently published a study which reported a validation of two expanded adult ADHD scales, self-report (Adult ADHD Self Report Rating Scale (ASRS) v1.1 Symptom Checklist) and clinician/investigator (Adult ADHD Investigator Symptom Rating Scale – AISRS); both scale were expanded beyond the classic 18 DSM symptoms of inattention (IA) and hyperactivity-impulsivity (HI) to include 13 additional commonly co-traveling items of executive function deficits (EFDs) (eg. difficulty with organization, planning, task execution and procrastination) and emotional control deficits (EC) (eg. moodiness, over-reactivity of mood), creating 31 item scales.

Data was examined on 297 individuals (either referred adults with ADHD or individuals in a primary care practice, who were mostly controls) at the NYU School of Medicine. The psychometric properties of both scales were examined in terms of internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha) and cut-off’s from normative data to predict a diagnosis. The internal consistency was high on both scales for measuring not only DSM IA and HI symptoms but also symptoms of EFD and EC (subscales ranging from 0.84 to 0.96); however, the internal consistency for EC was less for EFD, indicating that EC symptoms are less homogeneous than those of EFD, as had been suggested in a factor analysis by Adler et al (2017). Cut-off scores predictive of adult ADHD on the AISRS for dsm IA and HI 18 symptoms were between 23 and 26; this validates the empirical choice utilized in many clinical trials in adult ADHD of a cut-off score of 24.

This study highlights the importance to clinicians of assessing not only DSM symptoms of IA and HI, but also the co-traveling symptoms of EFD and EC and that clinician or self-report scales can be utilized in clinical practice. Also, the assessment of EFD and EC is especially important for clinicians as these symptom sets are less robustly responsive to pharmacotherapy than classic symptoms of IA and HI and may be more amenable to the addition of psycho-social interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

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

Silverstein MJ, Faraone SV, Alperin S, Leon TL, Biederman J, Spencer TJ, Adler LA. Validation of the Expanded Versions of the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale v1.1 Symptom Checklist and the Adult ADHD Investigator Symptom Rating Scale. J Atten Disord. 2018 Feb 1:1087054718756198. doi: 10.1177/1087054718756198. [Epub ahead of print].

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.

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.

ADHD Affects the Efficacy of Treatment for Eating Disorders in Adult Women

Stephen V. Faraone, PhDSwedish researchers examined outcomes for adult women who sought treatment at the Stockholm Centre for Eating Disorders over a period of two years and nine months. Out of 1,517 women who came to the clinic 1,143 remained eligible for the study, after excluding women whose symptoms did not fulfill the DSM-IV criteria for eating disorders or had incomplete records.

Of these, seven hundred patients could not be reached or declined to participate, leaving 443 for follow-up. To guard against the possibility that the follow-up group might not be representative of the overall treatment group, researchers compared age, body mass index, and scores on tests for depression, anxiety, compulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity. The only statistically significant differences were small ones. The median age of the group lost to follow-up was one year younger, they were less likely to be living alone, and on average scored a single point higher on the depression test. Otherwise they were broadly similar.

The one-year follow-up on the study group found a substantial difference in rate of recovery from eating disorders between those wEating disorders and ADHDith and without comorbid ADHD. Almost three out of four patients (72%) who scored lower (between 0-17) on the World Health Organization adult ADHD self-report scale had recovered from their eating disorder. Among those scoring 18 and higher, on the other hand, it was less than half (47%). This difference was extraordinarily unlikely (one chance in one thousand) to be due to chance (p=.001).

Another way of expressing this is through odds ratios. Those scoring 18 and up on the ADHD self-report scale were about two and a half times less likely to recover from their eating disorders following treatment. More specifically, they were about three times less likely to recover from loss of control and binging, and almost three and a half times less likely to recover from purging.

To improve outcomes, the researchers suggest “identifying concomitant ADHD symptoms and customizing treatment interventions based on this.” They specifically propose controlled clinical trials to explore the effect of combining stimulant medications with standard treatment for eating disorders.

Nils Erik Svedlund, Claes Norring, Ylva Ginsberg, Yvonne von Hausswolff‐Juhlin, “Are treatment results for eating disorders affected by ADHD symptoms? A one‐year follow‐up of adult females,” European Eating Disorders Review (2018).

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.

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.

Stephen V. Faraone, PhDA Dutch study compared the efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) combined with treatment as usual (TAU), with TAU-only as the control group. MBCT consisted of an eight-week group therapy consisting of mindfulness exercises (bodyscan, sitting meditation, mindful movement), psychoeducation about ADHD, and group exercises. TAU consisted of usual treatment in the Netherlands, including medications and other psychological treatment. Sixty individuals were randomly assigned to each group. MBCT was taught in subgroups of 8 to 12 individuals. Patients assigned to TAU were not brought together in small groups. Baseline demographic and clinical characteristics were closely matched for both groups.

Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioral TherapyOutcomes were evaluated at the start, immediately following treatment, and again after 3 and 6 months using well-validated rating scales. Following treatment, the MBCT + TAU group outperformed the TAU group by an average of 3.4 points on the Conners’ Adult Rating Scale, corresponding to a standardized mean difference of .41. Thirty-one percent of the MBCT + TAU group made significant gains, versus 5% of the TAU group. 27% of MBCT +TAU patients scored a symptom reduction of at least 30 percent, as opposed to only 4% of TAU patients. Three and six-month follow-up effects were stable, with an effect size of .43.

The authors concluded “that MBCT has significant benefits to adults with ADHD up to 6 months after post-treatment, with regard to both ADHD symptoms and positive outcomes.” Yet in their section on limitations, they overlook a potentially important one. There was no active placebo control. Those who were undergoing TAU-only were aware that they were not doing anything different from what they had been doing before the study. Hence no substantial placebo response would be expected from this group during the intervention period (post-treatment they were offered an opportunity to undergo MBCT). Moreover, MBCT + TAU participants were gathered into small groups, whereas TAU participants were not. We therefore have no way of knowing what effect group interaction had on the outcomes, because it was not controlled for. So, although these results are intriguing and suggest that further research is worthwhile, the work is not sufficiently rigorous to definitively conclude that MBCT should be prescribed for adults with ADHD.

Note: This post was co-authored by Andrew Reding.

Janssen L, Kan CC, Carpentier PJ, Sizoo B, Hepark S, Schellekens MPJ, Donders ART, Buitelaar JK, Speckens AEM. “Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy v. treatment as usual in adults with ADHD: a multicentre, single-blind, randomised controlled trial,” Psychological Medicine (2018), https:// doi.org/10.1017/S0033291718000429

Stephen V. Faraone, PhDThough there have been numerous studies of the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for ADHD symptoms in children, adolescents, and adults, few have examined efficacy among adults over 50. A new study begins to fill that void.

Psychiatric researchers from the New York University School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Pfizer randomly assigned 88 adults diagnosed with elevated levels of ADHD to one of two groups. The first group received 12 weeks of CBT targeting executive dysfunction – a deficiency in the ability to properly analyze, plan, organize, schedule, and complete tasks. The second group was assigned to a support group, intended to serve as a control for any effects arising from participating in a group therapy. Each group was split into subgroups of six to eight participants. One of the CBT subgroups was run concurrently with one of the support-only subgroups and matched on the percent receiving ADHD medications.

Outcomes were obtained for different ADHD demographics, 26 adults aged 50 or older (12 in CBT and 14 in support) and compared with 55 younger adults (29 in CBT and 26 in support). The mean age of the younger group was 35 and of the older group 56. Roughly half of the older group, and 3/5ths of the younger group, was on medication. Independent (“blinded”) clinicians rated symptoms of ADHD before and after treatment.

In the blind structured interview, both inattentive scores and executive function scores improved significantly and almost identically for both older and younger adults following CBT. When compared with the controls (support groups), however, there was a marked divergence. In younger adults, CBT groups significantlyIs Cognitive Behavior Therapy Effective for Older Adults with ADHD? outperformed support groups, with mean relative score improvements of 3.7 for inattentive symptoms and 2.9 for executive functioning. In older adults, however, the relative score improvements were only 1.1 and 0.9, and were not statistically significant.

Given the nonsignificant improvements over placebo, the authors’ conclusion that “The results provide preliminary evidence that CBT is an effective intervention for older adults with ADHD” is premature. As they note, a similar large placebo effect was seen in adults over 50 in a meta-analysis of CBT for depression, rendering the outcomes nonsignificant. Perhaps structured human contact is the key ingredient in this age group. It may also be, as suggested by the positive relative gains on six of seven measures, that CBT has a small net benefit over placebo, which cannot be validated with such a small sample size. Awaiting results from studies with larger sample sizes, it is for now impossible to reach any definitive conclusions about the efficacy of CBT for treating adults over 50.

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

Mary V. Solanto, Craig B. Surman, Jose Ma. J. Alvir, “The efficacy of cognitive–behavioral therapy for older adults with ADHD: a randomized controlled trial,” ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders (2018)

Stephen V Faraone PhD AIA 2016 tatAj0

A recent CNN report, http://tinyurl.com/yannlfd6, highlighted a paper published in Pediatrics, which reported that pregnant women who use acetaminophen during pregnancy put their unborn child at two-fold increased risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).   In that study, acetaminophen use during pregnancy was common; nearly half of women surveyed used the painkiller during a pregnancy.   Other studies have reported similar associations of acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol with ADHD or with other problems in childhood (e.g., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5300094/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4177119/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24566677, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24163279). Given these prior findings, it seems unlikely that the new report is a chance finding. But does it make any biological sense?   One answer to that question came from an epigenetic study. Such studies figure out if assaults from the environment change the genetic code. One epigenetic study found that prenatal exposure, changes the fetal genome via a process called methylation. Such genomic changes could increase risk for ADHD (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5540511/)/ . Because all of these studies are observational studies, one cannot assert with certainty that there is a causal link between acetaminophen use during pregnancy. The observed association could be due to some unmeasured third factor. Although the researchers did a respectable job ruling out some third factors, we must acknowledge some uncertainty in the finding. That said, what should pregnant women do if they need a acetaminophen.   I suggest you bring this information to your physician and ask if there is a suitable alternative.

While it has been well documented that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substance use disorders (SUD) commonly co-occur, little is known about the reasons for this association.  Since both disorders are highly heritable one hypothesis is the high co-occurrence may be due to common genes.  One way to assess for a genetic relationship between ADHD and SUD is through a familial risk analysis.  Familial risk analysis compares the prevalence of an illness in relatives of individuals with a given disorder based on the presence or absence of the same illness in relatives.  Since both ADHD and SUD are known familial illnesses, we can expect relatives of individuals with ADHD and SUD to have a higher prevalence of the same disorders.   

The way in which these two disorders aggregate in families can provide insight as to the nature of the association between the disorders.  If ADHD and SUD are independent disorders we would expect that different relatives of affected individuals with each condition would be affected with the same disorder.  For example, an individual with ADHD would have many relatives with ADHD and an individual with SUD would have many relatives with SUD.  Another possibility is that the genes that produce one disorder (ADHD or SUD) would express both risks in relatives.  For example, an individual with ADHD would have many relatives with ADHD or SUD afflicting different relatives.  A third possibility is that an individual with co-occurring ADHD and SUD would have many relatives who also have co-occurring ADHD and SUD.  This latter scenario is known as co-segregation and it usually suggests that the combined condition is driven by closely linked genes that are inherited together.  

Through the Massachusetts General Hospital longitudinal family studies of boys and girls with and without ADHD and their first-degree relatives we were able to test these hypotheses and examine the nature of the relationship between ADHD and SUD.  These children were first assessed in childhood and followed prospectively onto young adult years (“grown-up child”) through the peak period of risk for the development of addictions.  Our sample consisted of 404 subjects with a mean age of 22 years and their 1,336 relatives.  All individuals who participated in the study were systematically assessed with structured diagnostic interviews. Our findings showed that SUD in a grown-up child significantly increased the risk for SUD in relatives irrespective of having ADHD, and that ADHD in the grown-up child significantly increased the risk for SUD in relatives irrespective of whether or not the grown-up child had a SUD.   Our results also showed that grown-up children with both ADHD and SUD co-occurring together had an excess of relatives in which both conditions were present in the same relative (co-segregation).  Furthermore, we found the risk for SUD was not specific to alcohol or drug dependence indicating that what it is inherited is a general increased risk to develop a SUD. Finally, we documented that these risks were equally operant in boys and girls indicating that these risks are due to ADHD and not the sex of the affected individual.

Taken together, these patterns of familial aggregation point to three overlapping risks for the development of SUD in ADHD that include common familial etiological factors due to genes associated with ADHD, genes associated with SUD, and genes associated with their combined presence.  This triple risk may explain why the risk for SUD is so high in individuals with ADHD.

While these findings support the hypothesis that genetic influences are involved in mediating the risk for SUD in ADHD, we were also interested in examining familial environmental influences such as parental modeling of substance use through exposure to a parent with an active SUD. Our findings revealed that exposure to maternal SUD, but not paternal SUD, during adolescent years was associated with a modest increased risk for SUD in offspring (Yule 2013).  Taken together, these findings suggest that genetic influences are an important determinant of risk for SUD in children with ADHD.  Although modest, exposure to active maternal SUD also has a detrimental effect in moderating the risk for SUD in their adolescent offspring.

Our findings have clinical and public health implications.   Clinically, when a youth presents for treatment of ADHD clinicians should screen for SUD in the child and the family.  When a youth presents for the management of SUD, clinicians should also screen the youth and their family members for ADHD.  Since ADHD typically onsets years before the onset of substance use, ADHD children could benefit for early intervention strategies aimed at mitigating the risk for subsequent SUD.  For example, treatment for ADHD has also been shown to be an important intervention to decrease risk for SUD among youth with ADHD (Biederman 1999).          

In summary, the bidirectional association between ADHD and SUD seems to be due to strong genetic links between the two disorders.  All children within families with ADHD should be closely monitored for SUD.



Yule, A. M., Martleon, M., Faraone, S., Carrellas, N., Wilens, T. E., & Biederman, J. (2017). Examining the association between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and substance use disorders: A familial risk analysis. Journal of Psychiatric Research(85), 49-55.


Yule, A. (2013). The Impact of Exposure to Parental Substance Use Disorders on Substance Use Disorder Risk in Growing-Up Boys and Girls. Poster presented at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Orlando, FL.

Biederman, J., Wilens, T., Mick, E., Spencer, T., & Faraone, S. (1999). Pharmacotherapy of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder reduces risk for substance use disorder. Pediatrics, 104(2), e20.

In the popular media, ADHD is sometimes portrayed as a minor condition or not a disorder at all.   In fact, it is easy to find web sites claiming that ADHD is an invention of the medical profession and that the symptoms used to diagnose the disorder are simply normal behaviors that have been “medicalized”.   These claims are wrong.  They miss the main point of any psychiatric diagnostic process which is to identify people who experience distress or disability due to a set of well-defined symptoms.  So, does ADHD cause serious distress and disability?   It is a serious psychiatric condition?  To illustrate the strong evidence base for the “Yes” answer to that question, my colleagues and I constructed this infographic for our “Primer” about ADHD,
http://rdcu.be/gYyV.   It describes the many ways in which the symptoms of ADHD impact and impair the lives of children, adolescents and adults with the disorder.  We divided these ‘impacts’ into four categories: other disorders (both psychiatric and medical), psychological dysfunction, academic and occupational failure, social disability and risky behaviors.  Let’s start with other health problems.  We know from many studies that have followed ADHD children into adolescence and adulthood that having the disorder puts patients at risk for several psychiatric disorders, addictions, criminality, learning disabilities and speech/language disorders. ADHD even increases the risk for non-psychiatric disease such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes.  Perhaps most worrisome is that people with ADHD have a small increased risk for premature death.  This increased risk is due in part to their having other psychiatric and medical conditions and also to their risky behaviors which, as research documents, lead to accidents and traumatic brain injuries.   In the category of ‘psychological dysfunction’ we highlighted emotional dysregulation, which makes ADHD people quick to anger or to fail to tame extreme emotions.  Other serious psychological issues are low self-esteem and increased thoughts of suicide, which lead to more suicide attempts than for people without ADHD.  This increased risk for suicide is small, but it is real.    A more prevalent impact of ADHD is the broad category of social disability, which includes marital discord, poor parenting, legal problems, arrests and incarceration.   This typical starts in youth with poor social adjustment and conflict with parents, siblings and friends.  Another common impact of ADHD is on academic and vocational pursuits.  ADHD youth are at risk for underachievement in school, repeating grades and dropping out.  As adults, they are more likely to unemployed or underemployed, which leads to them having lower incomes than expected for their level of achievement in school.   So, don’t believe anyone who claims that ADHD is not a disorder or is only a mild one.   To be sure, there is a wide range of impairment among people with ADHD but, in the absence of treatment, they are at risk for adverse outcomes.  Fortunately, the medications that treat ADHD have been documented to reduce this risk, which is why they are typically the first line treatment for most people with ADHD.


Faraone, S. V. et al. (2015) Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder Nat. Rev. Dis. Primers doi:10.1038/nrdp.2015.20 ;  http://rdcu.be/gYyV

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If you’ve ever wondered how experts make treatment recommendations for patients with ADHD, take a look at this ADHD treatment decision tree that my colleagues and I constructed for our “Primer” about ADHD, http://rdcu.be/gYyV. Although a picture is worth a thousand words, keep in mind that this infographic only gives the bare bones of a complex process.   That said, it is telling that one of the first questions an expert asks is if the patient has a comorbid condition that is more severe than ADHD.  The rule of thumb is to treat the more severe disorder first and after that condition has been stabilized plan a treatment approach for the other condition.  Stimulants are typically the first line treatment due to their greater efficacy compared with non-stimulants.  When considering any medication treatment for ADHD, safety is the first concern which is why medical contraindications to stimulants, such as cardiovascular issues or concerns about substance abuse, must be considered.  For very young children (preschoolers) family behavior therapy is typically used prior to medication.  Clinicians also must deal with personal preferences.   Some parents and some adolescents and adults with ADHD simply don’t want to take stimulant medications for the disorder.  When that happens, clinicians should do their best to educate them about the costs and benefits of stimulant treatment.   If, as is the case for most patients, the doctor takes the stimulant arm of the decision tree, he or she must next decide if methylphenidate of amphetamine is more appropriate.  Here there is very little guidance for doctors.  Amphetamine compounds are a bit more effective but can lead to greater side effects.   Genetic studies suggest that a person’s genetic background provide some information about who will respond well to methylphenidate but we are not yet able to make very accurate predictions.    After choosing the type of stimulant, the doctor must next consider what duration of action is appropriate for each patient.  There is no simple rule here; the choice will depend upon the specific needs of each patient.  Many children benefit from longer acting medications to get them through school, homework and late afternoon/evening social activities.  Likewise for adults.  But many patients prefer shorter acting medications especially as these can be used to target specific times of day and can also lower the burden of side effects.   For patients taken down the non-stimulant arm of the decision tree, duration is not an issue but the patient and doctor must choose from among two classes of medications norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or alpha-2-agonists.  There are not a lot of good data to guide this decision but, again, genetics can be useful in some cases.  Regardless of whether the first treatment is a stimulant or a non-stimulant, the patient’s response must be closely monitored as there is no guarantee that the first choice of medication will work out well.  In some cases efficacy is low or adverse events are high.  Sometimes this can be fixed by changing the dose and sometimes a trial of a new medication is indicated.  If you are a parent of a child with ADHD or an adult with ADHD, this trial and error approach can be frustrating.  But don’t lose hope.  In the end, most ADHD patients find a dose and a medication that works for them.   Last but not least, when medication leads to a partial response, even after adjusting doses and trying different medication types, doctors should consider referring the patient for a non-pharmacologic ADHD treatment.  You can read details about these in my other blogs but for here the main point is to find an evidenced-based treatment.  For children the biggest evidence base is for behavioral family therapy.  For adults, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is the best choice.   With the exception of preschoolers, the experts I worked with on this infographic did not recommend these therapies before medication treatment.  The reason is that the medications are much more effective and many non-pharmacologic treatments (such as CBT) have no data indicating they work well in the absence of medication.  

Faraone, S. V. et al. (2015) Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder Nat. Rev. Dis. Primers doi:10.1038/nrdp.2015.20 ;  http://rdcu.be/gYyV