OBJECTIVE: Little is known about the effect of stimulant treatment in youth with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on the subsequent development of comorbid psychiatric disorders. We tested the association between stimulant treatment and the subsequent development of psychiatric comorbidity in a longitudinal sample of patients with ADHD.
METHODS: We conducted a case-control, 10-year prospective follow-up study into young-adult years of youth with ADHD. At baseline, we assessed consecutively referred white male children with (n = 140) and without (n = 120) ADHD, aged 6 to 18 years. At the 10-year follow-up, 112 (80%) and 105 (88%) of the children in the ADHD and control groups, respectively, were reassessed (mean age: 22 years). We examined the association between stimulant treatment in childhood and adolescence and subsequent comorbid disorders and grade retention by using proportional hazards survival models.
RESULTS: Of the 112 participants with ADHD, 82 (73%) were previously treated with stimulants. Participants with ADHD who were treated with stimulants were significantly less likely to subsequently develop depressive and anxiety disorders and disruptive behavior and less likely to repeat a grade compared with participants with ADHD who were not treated.
CONCLUSIONS: We found evidence that stimulant treatment decreases the risk for subsequent comorbid psychiatric disorders and academic failure in youth with ADHD.