Some ADHD Drugs May Increase Psychosis Risk

A commonly prescribed class of drugs used to treat ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) may slightly increase the risk of developing psychosis in teens and young adults.

The stimulant medications in question, amphetamines, go by the brand names Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts) and Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine).

Researchers examined health insurance claims on more than 220,000 people between the ages of 13 and 25 diagnosed with ADHD. They were prescribed either an amphetamine medication or methylphenidate, which is known by the brand names Ritalin and Concerta.

Results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that one out of every 486 patients that started on an amphetamine developed psychosis and subsequently started on an antipsychotic drug. For those on methylphenidate, the figure was one in 1,046.

The study only looked at new users of amphetamine or methylphenidate. Researchers noted that the risk of psychosis appears to happen early on, and if someone has been on an amphetamine for a long time with no issues, there’s likely no need to switch medications.

However, they say that because the two classes of drugs have similar effectiveness, it’s important for healthcare providers to discuss with ADHD patients the risks associated with each drug and why they are prescribing one over the other.

In the US, about 5 million people under the age of 25 are prescribed a medication for ADHD.


Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block is an associate editor at BioCentury, which provides news and information about the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Prior to joining BioCentury in 2019, Jonathan worked for MedShadow as content editor. He has been an editor and writer for multiple pharmaceutical, health and medical publications, including The Pink Sheet, Modern Healthcare, Health Plan Week and Psychiatry Advisor. He holds a BA from Tufts University and is earning an MPH with a focus on health policy from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.


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