A review of the pharmacotherapy of adults with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder

Timothy E. Wilens, Thomas J. Spencer, Joseph Biederman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


Objective: Despite the increasing recognition of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults, the use of pharmacotherapeutics remains less established. Methods: A systematic review of the literature identified 15 studies (N = 435 subjects) of stimulants, and 22 studies of non-stimulant medications (N = 421 subjects) including antidepressants, antihypertensives, amino acids, and wake-promoting agents for the treatment of ADHD in adults. Results: Studies with stimulants and antidepressants demonstrated significant short-term improvement in ADHD symptoms compared to placebo in adults. Methylphenidate (MPH) and amphetamine had an immediate onset of action whereas the ADHD response to pemoline and antidepressants appeared delayed. The response to amphetamine and MPH appears to be dose-dependent. Controlled data on nicotonic and noradrenergic compounds appear promising. There was considerable variability in diagnostic criteria, dosing parameters, and response rates between the various studies. Conclusions: Under controlled conditions, the aggregate literature shows that the stimulants and noradrenergic antidepressants had a clinically and statistically significant beneficial effect on treating ADHD in adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-202
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Attention Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2002
Externally publishedYes


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