Treatment of comorbidity in conduct disorder with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Essent Psychopharmacol. 2005;6(5):277-90.


Conduct disorder (CD) is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in childhood and adolescence. It is characterized by a variety of chronic antisocial behaviors, a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior that violates the basic rights of others, major age-appropriate societal norms, or both. Aggressive behavior, lying, stealing, fire-setting, and running away from home and school are the most frequent manifestations of CD and are often accompanied by hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, explosiveness, cognitive and learning problems, and poor social skills. The rate of comorbidity is high, with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) being the most common; comorbid anxiety and depressive disorders are also seen, especially in adolescents. The diagnostic process should include the use of structured interviews, and scores from reliable and valid rating scales that cover all psychiatric disorders must be considered in the differential diagnosis, because CD alone is an extreme rarity and multiple disorders are almost always the rule rather than exception. Treatment should include parenting skills training combined with training of the child to improve his or her relationships with peers, academic performance, and compliance with legitimate demands of authority figures. The appropriate use of medications and integration of patient/parent education and support, as well as individual, group, family, residential, and inpatient treatment may be beneficial for patients with CD and ADHD. The article describes a number of psychopharmacological agents that are used in patients with CD with ADHD and other comorbid disorders. Drugs that may be useful include psychostimulants; atomoxetine (Strattera); antidepressants (imipramine [Tofranil], desipramine [Norpramin]); Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs); atypical antipsychotics such as risperidone (Risperdal); or mood regulators including lithium (Eskalith).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / complications
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Conduct Disorder / complications
  • Conduct Disorder / diagnosis
  • Conduct Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychotropic Drugs


  • Psychotropic Drugs