Joseph Blader, PhD, and Colleagues Identify Ways to Improve Treatment of Aggression in Children with ADHD

The Research Suggests More Intensive Stimulant Treatment Approach

STONY BROOK, N.Y., September, 2010 – Joseph C. Blader, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and colleagues, found that almost half of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) whose aggressive behaviors cannot be controlled with stimulant medication in routine outpatient care did not need additional psychotropic medications. Instead, their aggression could be successfully controlled with stimulants alone when the dose was individually optimized and the family received behavioral therapy. The study findings are to be published in the October issue of Pediatrics, and an early online edition the week of September 13.

“The results of our research strongly suggest that more intensive and methodical approaches to prescribing stimulants may reduce the need to resort to antipsychotic medications to control severe aggression among children with ADHD,” says Dr. Blader.

Dr. Blader and colleagues studied 65 children between the ages of 6 and 13 who were diagnosed with ADHD and either oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder. All of the children exhibited significant aggressive behavior and all had been treated unsuccessfully with standard doses of methylphenidate or amphetamine, the active ingredients in stimulant medications that are standard treatments for ADHD.

The research team sufficiently reduced aggression in 32 of the 65 children (49 percent) after individually optimizing stimulant doses along with behavioral therapy. This dosage change also avoided any significant side effects in the patient grouping.

Dr. Blader explained that although established guidelines for the treatment of ADHD recommend careful and frequent dosage monitoring, as well as dose adjustments like those provided by the research team, previously published analyses came to a different conclusion than what he and his colleagues discovered. Previous analyses of medical claims suggested that such a treatment approach is uncommon in primary care settings, and only moderately better when implemented in specialty settings.

Co-authors of the SBU-led study include Steven R. Pliszka, M.D., University of Texas Health Science Center; Peter S. Jensen, M.D., Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Nina R. Schooler, Ph.D., and Vivian Kafantaris, M.D., of Zucher Hillside Hospital, North Shore-LIJ Health System, Glen Oaks, N.Y.

The study was funded by a Research Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health to Dr. Blader. Additional support came from the General Clinical Research Center at SBUMC.

The Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry within the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University School of Medicine includes clinicians and researchers. The Division is nationally known for its research and treatment programs in ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, bipolar disorder, and other psychiatric problems among youth.