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Expert Opin Emerg Drugs. 2004 Nov;9(2):293-302.

New drugs for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

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UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, Room 27-370C, 760 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common neuropsychiatric disorder of childhood. Recent research indicates that ADHD most often persists into adolescence and adulthood, and is associated with impairments in academic, social and occupational functioning. The ADHD diagnosis is based on history and clinical examination. There are no objective laboratory measures for diagnosis. ADHD is largely heritable. Its underlying pathophysiology has been theorised to include dysregulation of inhibitory noradrenergic frontocortical activity on dopaminergic striatal structures. Evidence shows that ADHD is highly responsive to pharmacological treatments resulting in global functional improvements. Although pharmacotherapy is recognised as the most effective treatment, additional components to optimise ADHD management include proper educational placement, parent management training and social skills development. Central nervous system stimulants, specifically methylphenidate and amphetamine, remain first-line pharmacological treatments. Atomoxetine, a selective noradrenergic re-uptake inhibitor, is the first non-stimulant compound to receive FDA approval for paediatric and adult ADHD. Other medication classes, including alpha-agonist antihypertensives, tricyclic antidepressants, other antidepressants such as buproprion, and the wake-promoting agent modafinil, are prescribed in off-label therapy. Ongoing development of new ADHD medications is expected to emphasise alternative and extended-release delivery systems and non-stimulant compounds.

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