People With Multiple Diagnoses More Likely to Stop ADHD Treatment

  • People with additional diagnoses were more likely to stop their ADHD medications than those with only an ADHD diagnosis.
  • Researchers say this may be because of the side effects associated with stimulant medications.
  • Genetic risk for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were also linked to an increased risk of quitting medication.
  • Learning why people quit may lead to improvements in treatment.

Research from The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research (iPSYCH) has shown that people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who also have another psychiatric diagnosis are more likely to stop taking their ADHD medications than those who have only an ADHD diagnosis.

ADHD is one of the most common childhood psychiatric disorders, according to American Psychiatric Association.

It involves symptoms including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity which go beyond the norm for a child’s age and cause problems in their daily lives.

Symptoms may lessen as children become adults, but many will continue to have major symptoms which interfere with their functioning.

Medications for ADHD help relieve these symptoms so that people can function better in their daily lives.

50 percent of people stop taking medications

The study, which was the largest of its type to date, included 9,133 with ADHD as well as all of their prescribed ADHD medications since 1995.

The team examined several factors which might influence a person’s decision to quit their medication, including genetics, age at the time of their diagnoses, and socio-demographic factors like parents’ education, income level, and psychiatric history.

When they analyzed the data they found that those who had a diagnosis or diagnoses beyond just a simple ADHD diagnosis were more likely to stop taking their ADHD medication.

In fact, 50 percent of these people will stop taking their medications within two years of starting treatment, according to the organization’s research.

One other important finding from the study is that there was a link between having a higher genetic risk for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder among those who were at increased risk for stopping stimulant medications.

Why people stop taking their medications

Isabell Brikell, the lead author on the study, believes people may stop their medications because their multiple diagnoses lead them to be at greater risk for side effects. For example, she noted that stimulants can rarely cause people to experience tics. It may also be that stimulants have a lower effect in people with multiple diagnoses.

ADHD can be treated with two types of medications, according the study authors: stimulants and non-stimulants.

Examples of stimulant ADHD medications include Adderall, Concerta, and Dexedrine.

Non-stimulant medications include Strattera, and the antidepressants Effexor, and Wellbutrin.

The researchers say that although stimulant medications work for most people, the problem is that the medications that are used can cause undesirable side effects. This can lead people to either stop their medication or switch to a non-stimulant medication.

Non-stimulant medications are generally used if a person has not responded well to stimulants.

Why this research is important

Brikell said feels that is is important to ferret out exactly why people stop their medications. Treatment increases a person’s ability to focus and it reduces hyperactivity and impulsivity. Also, it has been shown to have many positive effects including improved school performance and a lower risk for accidents and injuries.

If they can gain more knowledge about why people quit, she said, doctors can do a better job with providing treatment, monitoring, and support.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Nancy Schimelpfening, MS

Nancy Schimelpfening is the founder of Depression Sanctuary. Unless otherwise stated, all of the content on Depression Sanctuary is written by and maintained by Nancy. Nancy has a master’s degree in community health education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. She was the (now expert on depression from 1998-2016. She has also written for other online publications, including Healthline, Health Digest, and MindBodyGreen.