Three new or soon-to-be-published studies have found that drivers with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) using any of the popular, long-acting ADHD medications -- Concerta, Adderall XR or Strattera -- performed significantly better behind the wheel, and more safely, than those taking a placebo. (The studies were funded by the makers of those drugs.)
The Back Story According to previous research, teens with ADHD are four times more likely to have an auto accident and five times more likely to be at fault than those without the disorder. Adults with ADHD have about twice as many accidents as other people. They lose their licenses fives times more often.
The Findings "Medication treatment reduces those driving performance problems," Russell Barkley, a research professor of psychiatry at New York's SUNY Upstate Medical School, wrote in an e-mail. He is a co-author of an upcoming review of research on driving with ADHD.
Each of the three studies relied heavily on driving simulators to measure reaction times, speeding, tailgating and other driving behaviors. Daniel Cox, professor of psychiatric medicine at the University of Virginia Health System and Barkley's review co-author, compared Concerta with Adderall XR. In his study, drivers aged 16 to 19 improved significantly compared to placebo while on Concerta but not while on Adderall XR.
In a study by Gary Kay, president of the Washington Neuropsychological Institute, Adderall XR was effective for drivers 19 to 25. In a pilot study not yet published, Barkley reports that Strattera improved the driving of adults aged 22 to 60.
The Take-away "I think it's great to see these kinds of [studies]," said Adelaide Robb, a psychiatrist at Children's National Medical Center. "I spend a lot of time [with parents and patients] on reducing accidents and keeping out of traffic court. . . . Medication helps, and we put [patients] on the medication we think is the best for them."
-- Matt McMillen