Diagnosis and treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

NIH Consens Statement. 1998 Nov;16(2):1-37.


Objective: The objective of this NIH Consensus Statement is to inform the biomedical research and clinical practice communities of the results of the NIH Consensus Development Conference on Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The statement provides state-of-the-art information regarding effective treatments for ADHD and presents the conclusions and recommendations of the consensus panel regarding these issues. In addition, the statement identifies those areas of study that deserve further investigation. Upon completion of this educational activity, the reader should possess a clear working clinical knowledge of the state of the art regarding this topic. The target audience of clinicians for this statement includes, but is not limited to, psychiatrists, family practitioners, pediatricians, internists, neurologists psychologists, and behavioral medicine specialists.

Participants: Participants were a non-Federal, nonadvocate, 13-member panel representing the fields of psychology, psychiatry, neurology, pediatrics, epidemiology, biostatistics, education and the public. In addition, 31 experts from these same fields presented data to the panel and a conference audience of 1215.

Evidence: The literature was searched through Medline and an extensive bibliography of references was provided to the panel and the conference audience. Experts prepared abstracts with relevant citations from the literature. Scientific evidence was given precedence over clinical anecdotal experience.

Consensus process: The panel, answering predefined questions, developed their conclusions based on the scientific evidence presented in open forum and the scientific literature. The panel composed a draft statement that was read in its entirety and circulated to the experts and the audience for comment. Thereafter, the panel resolved conflicting recommendations and released a revised statement at the end of the conference. The panel finalized the revisions within a few weeks after the conference. The draft statement was made available on the World Wide Web immediately following its release at the conference and was updated with the panel's final revisions.

Conclusions: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood that represents a costly major public health problem. Children with ADHD have pronounced impairments and can experience long-term adverse effects on academic performance, vocational success, and social-emotional development which have a profound impact on individuals, families, schools, and society. Despite progress in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of ADHD, this disorder and its treatment have remained controversial, especially the use of psychostimulants for both short and long-term treatment. Although an independent diagnostic test for ADHD does not exist, there is evidence supporting the validity of the disorder. Further research is needed on the dimensional aspects of ADHD, as well as the comorbid (coexisting) conditions present in both childhood and adult forms. Studies, (primarily short term, approximately three months) including randomized clinical trials, have established the efficacy of stimulants and psychosocial treatments for alleviating the symptoms of ADHD and associated aggressiveness and have indicated that stimulants are more effective than psychosocial therapies in treating these symptoms. Because of the lack of consistent improvement beyond the core symptoms and the paucity of long-term studies (beyond 14 months), there is a need for longer term studies with drugs and behavioral modalities and their combination. Although trials are underway, conclusive recommendations concerning treatment for the long term cannot be made presently. There are wide variations in the use of psychostimulants across communities and physicians, suggesting no consensus regarding which ADHD patients should be treated with psychostimulants. (ABSTRACT

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Consensus Development Conference, NIH
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / physiopathology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Psychotherapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants