An analysis of three previous studies of children and young adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) quantifies for the first time the extent to which stimulant treatment reduces the development of mood disorders, school problems, conduct disorders, substance use disorders and other problems. The study led by Massachusetts General Hospital investigators is being published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
“Our study documents that early treatment with stimulant medication has very strong protective effects against the development of serious, ADHD-associated functional complications like mood and anxiety disorders, conduct and oppositional defiant disorder, addictions, driving impairments and academic failure,” says Joseph Biederman, MD, chief of the Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD Program at MGH and MassGeneral Hospital for Children. “In quantifying the improvement seen with stimulant treatment, it measures its potency in mitigating specific functional outcomes.”
Previous studies of stimulant treatment for ADHD have had limitations, such as only investigating outcomes in boys or not calculating the magnitude of the protective effects of treatment. The current study determined the number needed to treat (NNT) statistic, often used to show the effectiveness of an intervention. As the title indicates, NNT reflects the number of individuals receiving a medication or other treatment needed to prevent a specific unwanted outcome — the lower the NNT, the more effective the treatment.