Pharmacotherapy of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder across the life cycle

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1996 Apr;35(4):409-32. doi: 10.1097/00004583-199604000-00008.


Objective: To evaluate the scope of the available therapeutic armamentarium in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Method: The literature of medication trials in ADHD was systematically reviewed, with attention to issues of psychiatric comorbidity, age, gender, and ethnic background.

Results: One hundred fifty-five controlled studies of 5,768 children, adolescents, and adults have documented the efficacy of stimulants in an estimated 70% of subjects. The literature clearly documents that stimulants not only improve abnormal behaviors of ADHD, but also self-esteem, cognition, and social and family function. However, response varied in different age groups and with certain comorbid conditions. In addition, there is an impressive body of literature documenting the efficacy of tricyclic antidepressants on ADHD in more than 1,000 subjects. Studies of alternative antidepressants, antipsychotics, antihypertensives, and other compounds were also reviewed.

Conclusions: The available literature indicates the important role of psychopharmacological agents in the reduction of the core symptoms of ADHD and associated impairments. More research is needed on alternative pharmacological treatments and to further evaluate established therapeutics beyond school-age Caucasian boys. In addition, more research is needed on the efficacy of treatment for comorbid ADHD, use of combined medications, and the combination of medication and psychosocial treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / complications
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants