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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2004 Oct;175(4):391-8.

Assessing methylphenidate preference in ADHD patients using a choice procedure.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan Health System, 1924 Taubman Center, P.O. Box 0318 Ann Arbor, MI, 48109-0318, USA.



Methylphenidate (MPH) is widely used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is associated with positive clinical effects across a wide range of domains. Despite the clinical effectiveness of MPH, concern has arisen with respect to its abuse potential.


To assess MPH preference in adults diagnosed with ADHD using a choice procedure and to evaluate the relationship among drug preference, therapeutic efficacy, and abuse potential in a clinical sample.


Participants were ten volunteers (ages 18-22 years) with ADHD who were receiving MPH treatment. Preference was assessed using a double-blind choice procedure with four sampling sessions wherein subjects received either placebo or MPH and eight choice sessions when they chose either capsule or no capsules.


Overall, MPH was chosen significantly more often than placebo (chi2=52.5; P<0.001) and participants were equally separated into groups of those who chose MPH reliably (MPH choosers) and those who did not (MPH non-choosers). MPH decreased ADHD symptoms and resulted in lower ratings of stimulant effects among MPH choosers. MPH choosers also reported higher levels of baseline ADHD symptoms.


Despite higher preference of MPH than placebo in this clinical sample, other measures of abuse potential were not elevated, and MPH choosers were more symptomatic than non-choosers. As such, MPH preference in ADHD populations likely reflects therapeutic efficacy rather than abuse potential. Future work should examine MPH choice in diagnosed and non-diagnosed populations to further explore the role of clinical efficacy in the preference of this stimulant drug.

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