Although the prevalence of substance use disorder (SUD) with co-occurring attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is relatively high in adult patients, there is hardly any knowledge about these dual diagnoses. A recent study reported met- and unmet needs for several life domains regarding these patient groups. To improve treatment, it is necessary to identify the everyday life consequences of SUD and co-occurring ADHD or ASD in adult patients.
Qualitative study using in-depth interviews. 11 SUD + ADHD and 12 SUD + ASD patients participated in the study. The interview transcripts were coded and analysed according to the seven steps for descriptive phenomenology by Colaizzi.
Both patients with ADHD and patients with ASD can get caught in a jumble of thoughts and emotions which can often lead to agitation and impulsivity in the case of ADHD or passivity and melancholia in the case of ASD with co-occurring SUD in both cases. Initially substance use ameliorates the symptoms and related problems, but both patient groups can later experience even greater problems: difficulties with the structuring of daily life due to a lack of planning (SUD + ADHD) or due to a lack of initiative (SUD + ASD). Both groups indicate that structure helps them function better. They also recognize that substance use disorganizes their lives and that an absence of structure contributes to substance use in what becomes a vicious circle which needs to be broken for effective treatment and care.
This study provides insight into the daily life consequences of SUD with a co-occurring ADHD or ASD. Substance use is reported to solve some ADHD- or ASD-related problems in the short run but have negative consequences in the long run (i.e., contribute to already impaired cognitive functioning). Insight is provided into what clinicians can do to break this vicious circle and thus help ADHD patients to refrain from action and ASD patients to take action.
Substance use disorders; Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; Autism spectrum disorder; Everyday life consequences; Adults
Children with early symptomatic psychiatric disorders such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been found to have high rates of motor and/or perception difficulties. However, there have been few large-scale studies reporting on the association between Conduct Disorder (CD) and motor/perception functions. The aim of the present study was to investigate how motor function and perception relate to measures of ADHD, ASD, and CD.
Parents of 16,994 Swedish twins (ages nine and twelve years) were interviewed using the Autism-Tics, ADHD and other Comorbidities inventory (A-TAC), which has been validated as a screening instrument for early onset child psychiatric disorders and symptoms. Associations between categorical variables of scoring above previously validated cut-off values for diagnosing ADHD, ASD, and CD on the one hand and motor and/or perception problems on the other hand were analysed using cross-tabulations, and the Fisher exact test. Associations between the continuous scores for ADHD, ASD, CD, and the subdomains Concentration/Attention, Impulsiveness/Activity, Flexibility, Social Interaction and Language, and the categorical factors age and gender, on the one hand, and the dependent dichotomic variables Motor control and Perception problems, on the other hand, were analysed using binary logistic regression in general estimated equation models.
Male gender was associated with increased risk of Motor control and/or Perception problems. Children scoring above the cut-off for ADHD, ASD, and/or CD, but not those who were ‘CD positive’ but ‘ADHD/ASD negative’, had more Motor control and/or Perception problems, compared with children who were screen-negative for all three diagnoses. In the multivariable model, CD and Impulsiveness/Activity had no positive associations with Motor control and/or Perception problems.
CD symptoms or problems with Impulsiveness/Activity were associated with Motor control or Perception problems only in the presence of ASD symptoms and/or symptoms of inattention. Our results indicate that children with CD but without ASD or inattention do not show a deviant development of motor and perceptual functions. Therefore, all children with CD should be examined concerning motor control and perception. If problems are present, a suspicion of ADHD and/or ASD should be raised.
Conduct Disorder; Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Motor control; Perception; A-TAC
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is associated with an increased risk of co-existing substance abuse. The Swedish legislation on compulsory healthcare can be applied to persons with severe substance abuse who can be treated involuntarily during a period of six months. This context enables a reliable clinical assessment of ADHD in individuals with severe substance use disorder (SUD).
In the context of compulsory care for individuals with severe SUD, male patients were assessed for ADHD, co-morbid psychiatric symptoms, psychosocial background, treatment history, and cognition. The data from the ADHD/SUD group (n = 60) was compared with data from (1) a group of individuals with severe substance abuse without known ADHD (SUD group, n = 120), as well as (2) a group with ADHD from an outpatient psychiatric clinic (ADHD/Psych group, n = 107).
Compared to the general SUD group in compulsory care, the ADHD/SUD group had already been significantly more often in compulsory care during childhood or adolescence, as well as imprisoned more often as adults. The most common preferred abused substance in the ADHD/SUD group was stimulant drugs, while alcohol and benzodiazepine abuse was more usual in the general SUD group. Compared to the ADHD/Psych group, the ADHD/SUD group reported more ADHD symptoms during childhood and performed poorer on all tests of general intellectual ability and executive functions.
The clinical characteristics of the ADHD/SUD group differed from those of both the SUD group and the ADHD/Psych group in several respects, indicating that ADHD in combination with SUD is a particularly disabling condition. The combination of severe substance abuse, poor general cognitive ability, severe psychosocial problems, including indications of antisocial behaviour, and other co-existing psychiatric conditions should be considered in treatment planning for adults with ADHD and SUD.
ADHD; SUD; Co-morbidity; Compulsory care; Adults; Cognition
Recent studies have not paid a great deal of attention to comorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in autistic children even though it is well known that almost half of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) suffer from hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. The goal of this study was to evaluate and compare executive functioning (EF) profiles in children with ADHD and in children with ASD with and without comorbid ADHD.
Children aged 6 to 18 years old with ADHD (n = 20) or ASD (High-Functioning autism or Asperger syndrome) with (n = 20) and without (n = 20) comorbid ADHD and a typically developing group (n = 20) were compared on a battery of EF tasks comprising inhibition, flexibility, working memory and planning tasks. A MANOVA, effect sizes as well as correlations between ADHD-symptomatology and EF performance were calculated. Age- and IQ-corrected z scores were used.
There was a significant effect for the factor group (F = 1.55; dF = 42; p = .02). Post-hoc analysis revealed significant differences between the ADHD and the TD group on the inhibition task for false alarms (p = .01) and between the ADHD group, the ASD+ group (p = .03), the ASD- group (p = .02) and the TD group (p = .01) for omissions. Effect sizes showed clear deficits of ADHD children in inhibition and working memory tasks. Participants with ASD were impaired in planning and flexibility abilities. The ASD+ group showed compared to the ASD- group more problems in inhibitory performance but not in the working memory task.
Our findings replicate previous results reporting impairment of ADHD children in inhibition and working memory tasks and of ASD children in planning and flexibility abilities. The ASD + group showed similarities to the ADHD group with regard to inhibitory but not to working memory deficits. Nevertheless the heterogeneity of these and previous results shows that EF assessment is not useful for differential diagnosis between ADHD and ASD. It might be useful for evaluating strengths and weaknesses in individual children.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) frequently co-occurs with substance use disorders (SUD). The combination of ADHD and SUD is associated with a negative prognosis of both SUD and ADHD. Pharmacological treatments of comorbid ADHD in adult patients with SUD have not been very successful. Recent studies show positive effects of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in ADHD patients without SUD, but CBT has not been studied in ADHD patients with comorbid SUD.
This paper presents the protocol of a randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of an integrated CBT protocol aimed at reducing SUD as well as ADHD symptoms in SUD patients with a comorbid diagnosis of ADHD. The experimental group receives 15 CBT sessions directed at symptom reduction of SUD as well as ADHD. The control group receives treatment as usual, i.e. 10 CBT sessions directed at symptom reduction of SUD only. The primary outcome is the level of self-reported ADHD symptoms. Secondary outcomes include measures of substance use, depression and anxiety, quality of life, health care consumption and neuropsychological functions.
This is the first randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of an integrated CBT protocol for adult SUD patients with a comorbid diagnosis of ADHD. The rationale for the trial, the design, and the strengths and limitations of the study are discussed.
This trial is registered in http://www.clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01431235.
ADHD; SUD; Cognitive behavioral therapy; Adult; Integrated treatment
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms frequently occur in subjects with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While there is evidence that both ADHD and ASD have differential structural correlates, no study to date has investigated these structural correlates within a framework that robustly accounts for the phenotypic overlap between the two disorders. The presence of ASD symptoms was measured by the parent-reported Children’s Social and Behavioural Questionnaire (CSBQ) in ADHD subjects (n = 180), their unaffected siblings (n = 118) and healthy controls (n = 146). ADHD symptoms were assessed by a structured interview (K-SADS-PL) and the Conners’ ADHD questionnaires. Whole brain T1-weighted MPRAGE images were acquired and the structural MRI correlates of ASD symptom scores were analysed by modelling ASD symptom scores against white matter (WM) and grey matter (GM) volumes using mixed effects models which controlled for ADHD symptom levels. ASD symptoms were significantly elevated in ADHD subjects relative to both controls and unaffected siblings. ASD scores were predicted by the interaction between WM and GM volumes. Increasing ASD score was associated with greater GM volume. Equivocal results from previous structural studies in ADHD and ASD may be due to the fact that comorbidity has not been taken into account in studies to date. The current findings stress the need to account for issues of ASD comorbidity in ADHD.
The differential diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) based solely on symptomatic and behavioral assessments can be difficult, even for experts. Thus, the development of a neuroimaging marker that differentiates ASDs from ADHD would be an important contribution to this field. We assessed the differences in prefrontal activation between adults with ASDs and ADHD using an entirely non-invasive and portable neuroimaging tool, near-infrared spectroscopy. This study included 21 drug-naïve adults with ASDs, 19 drug-naïve adults with ADHD, and 21 healthy subjects matched for age, sex, and IQ. Oxygenated hemoglobin concentration changes in the prefrontal cortex were assessed during a stop signal task and a verbal fluency task. During the stop signal task, compared to the control group, the ASDs group exhibited lower activation in a broad prefrontal area, whereas the ADHD group showed underactivation of the right premotor area, right presupplementary motor area, and bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortices. Significant differences were observed in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex between the ASDs and ADHD groups during the stop signal task. The leave-one-out cross-validation method using mean oxygenated hemoglobin changes yielded a classification accuracy of 81.4% during inhibitory control. These results were task specific, as the brain activation pattern observed during the verbal fluency task did not differentiate the ASDs and ADHD groups significantly. This study therefore provides evidence of a difference in left ventrolateral prefrontal activation during inhibitory control between adults with ASDs and ADHD. Thus, near-infrared spectroscopy may be useful as an auxiliary tool for the differential diagnosis of such developmental disorders.
•We examined the prefrontal function in 2 developmental disorders and HC using NIRS.•NIRS signals were assessed during a stop signal task (SST) and a verbal fluency task.•ASDs showed significantly smaller activation during SST than ADHD in left VLPFC.•NIRS is a useful biomarker for the differential diagnosis of ASDs and ADHD.
Autism spectrum disorders; Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; Near-infrared spectroscopy; Inhibitory control; Stop signal task
To determine comorbidity patterns in treatment-seeking substance use disorder (SUD) patients with and without adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with an emphasis on subgroups defined by ADHD subtype, taking into account differences related to gender and primary substance of abuse.
Data were obtained from the cross-sectional International ADHD in Substance use disorder Prevalence (IASP) study.
Forty-seven centres of SUD treatment in 10 countries.
A total of 1205 treatment-seeking SUD patients.
Structured diagnostic assessments were used for all disorders: presence of ADHD was assessed with the Conners’ Adult ADHD Diagnostic Interview for DSM-IV (CAADID), the presence of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), major depression (MD) and (hypo)manic episode (HME) was assessed with the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview-Plus (MINI Plus), and the presence of borderline personality disorder (BPD) was assessed with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis II (SCID II).
The prevalence of DSM-IV adult ADHD in this SUD sample was 13.9%. ASPD [odds ratio (OR) = 2.8, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.8–4.2], BPD (OR = 7.0, 95% CI = 3.1–15.6 for alcohol; OR = 3.4, 95% CI = 1.8–6.4 for drugs), MD in patients with alcohol as primary substance of abuse (OR = 4.1, 95% CI = 2.1–7.8) and HME (OR = 4.3, 95% CI = 2.1–8.7) were all more prevalent in ADHD+ compared with ADHD− patients (P < 0.001). These results also indicate increased levels of BPD and MD for alcohol compared with drugs as primary substance of abuse. Comorbidity patterns differed between ADHD subtypes with increased MD in the inattentive and combined subtype (P < 0.01), increased HME and ASPD in the hyperactive/impulsive (P < 0.01) and combined subtypes (P < 0.001) and increased BPD in all subtypes (P < 0.001) compared with SUD patients without ADHD. Seventy-five per cent of ADHD patients had at least one additional comorbid disorder compared with 37% of SUD patients without ADHD.
Treatment-seeking substance use disorder patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are at a very high risk for additional externalizing disorders.
ADHD; antisocial personality disorder; bipolar disorder; borderline personality disorder; comorbidity; depression; substance use disorder
This article introduces a “younger at-risk sibling” design to study progression from other psychopathologies to their substance use disorder (SUD) complications. The design selects not-yet-SUD adolescents with high-risk-for-SUD psychopathology only if an older sibling has SUD. This “proof of concept” pilot study examines the design’s feasibility if the younger sibling has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Subjects were recruited from families at substance abuse treatment centers that had a non-SUD younger child with ADHD, from families at behavior disorder clinics that had a younger child with ADHD and SUD older child, and through general advertisements. Subjects were seen weekly for at least 3 months and monthly thereafter for 3 months. All were treated with open-label lisdexamfetamine dimesylate 30–70 mg per day. Outcomes explored were recruitment, compliance, diversion, ADHD improvement, and substance use interest.
25 families were screened, 13 evaluated, and 8 began medication. ADHD Rating Scale-IV scores obtained by parent adolescent consensus improved as expected with a stimulant. Rating forms could quantify substance use interest in subjects with some drug culture exposure but encountered a floor effect in those without. The design’s complexity and implicit commentary on family dynamics complicated recruitment but may have facilitated retention.
Sibling pairs in which the older sibling has substance use and the younger sibling has ADHD exist. Such younger siblings can be recruited into a treatment study. The design may shed light on the pathogenesis and prevention of SUD complications from ADHD and theoretically other SUD comorbidities.
comorbidity; pathogenesis; family; siblings
ADHD is a common and disabling disorder, with an increased risk for coexisting disorders, substance abuse and delinquency. In the present study, we aimed at exploring ADHD and criminality. We estimated the prevalence of ADHD among longer-term prison inmates, described symptoms and cognitive functioning, and compared findings with ADHD among psychiatric outpatients and healthy controls.
At Norrtälje Prison, we approached 315 male inmates for screening of childhood ADHD by the Wender Utah Rating Scale (WURS-25) and for present ADHD by the Adult ADHD Self-Report Screener (ASRS-Screener). The response rate was 62%. Further, we assessed 34 inmates for ADHD and coexisting disorders. Finally, we compared findings with 20 adult males with ADHD, assessed at a psychiatric outpatient clinic and 18 healthy controls.
The estimated prevalence of adult ADHD among longer-term inmates was 40%. Only 2 out of 30 prison inmates confirmed with ADHD had received a diagnosis of ADHD during childhood, despite most needed health services and educational support. All subjects reported lifetime substance use disorder (SUD) where amphetamine was the most common drug. Mood and anxiety disorders were present among half of subjects; autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among one fourth and psychopathy among one tenth. Personality disorders were common; almost all inmates presented conduct disorder (CD) before antisocial personality disorder (APD). Prison inmates reported more ADHD symptoms during both childhood and adulthood, compared with ADHD psychiatric outpatients. Further, analysis of executive functions after controlling for IQ showed both ADHD groups performed poorer than controls on working memory tests. Besides, on a continuous performance test, the ADHD prison group displayed poorer results compared with both other groups.
This study suggested ADHD to be present among 40% of adult male longer-term prison inmates. Further, ADHD and coexisting disorders, such as SUD, ASD, personality disorders, mood- and anxiety disorders, severely affected prison inmates with ADHD. Besides, inmates showed poorer executive functions also when controlling for estimated IQ compared with ADHD among psychiatric outpatients and controls. Our findings imply the need for considering these severities when designing treatment programmes for prison inmates with ADHD.
The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is widely used as an international standardised instrument measuring child behaviour. The primary aim of our study was to examine whether behavioral symptoms measured by SDQ were elevated among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) relative to the rest of the population, and to examine the predictive value of the SDQ for outcome of parent-reported clinical diagnosis of ASD/ADHD. A secondary aim was to examine the extent of overlap in symptoms between children diagnosed with these two disorders, as measured by the SDQ subscales. A cross-sectional secondary analysis of data from the Millennium Birth Cohort (n = 19,519), was conducted. Data were weighted to be representative of the UK population as a whole. ADHD or ASD identified by a medical doctor or health professional were reported by parents in 2008 and this was the case definition of diagnosis; (ADHD n = 173, ASD n = 209, excluding twins and triplets). Study children's ages ranged from 6.3–8.2 years; (mean 7.2 years). Logistic regression was used to examine the association between the parent-reported clinical diagnosis of ASD/ADHD and teacher and parent-reported SDQ subscales. All SDQ subscales were strongly associated with both ASD and ADHD. There was substantial co-occurrence of behavioral difficulties between children diagnosed with ASD and those diagnosed with ADHD. After adjustment for other subscales, the final model for ADHD, contained hyperactivity/inattention and impact symptoms only and had a sensitivity of 91% and specificity of 90%; (AUC) = 0.94 (95% CI, 0.90–0.97). The final model for ASD was composed of all subscales except the ‘peer problems’ scales, indicating of the complexity of behavioural difficulties that may accompany ASD. A threshold of 0.03 produced model sensitivity and specificity of 79% and 93% respectively; AUC = 0.90 (95% CI, 0.86–0.95). The results support changes to DSM-5 removing exclusivity clauses.
The aim of the present study was to compare the broader autism phenotype in Iranian parents of children with autism spectrum disorders and parents of typically developing children.
Parents of children with ASD and parents of typically developing children were asked to complete the Persian version of the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). In the ASD group, families included 204 parents (96 fathers and 108 mothers) of children diagnosed as having autism (Autistic Disorder, or AD) (n=124), Asperger Syndrome (AS) or High Functioning Autism (HFA) (n=48) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) (n=32) by psychiatrists based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-4thedition (DSM-IV-TR) criteria. In the control group, 210 (108 fathers and 102 mothers) parents of typically developing children. Parents of typically developing children were selected from four primary schools. Based on family reports, their children did not have any psychiatric problems. Total AQ score and each of the 5 subscales were analyzed using two-way ANOVAs with sex and group as factors.
The mean age of ASD fathers was 40.6 years (SD=5.96; range 31-54), and of ASD mothers was 34.7 years (SD=4.55; range 28-45). The mean age of control fathers was 37 years (SD=4.6; range 29-45) and of control mothers was 34.11 years (SD=4.86; range 28-45). Group differences were found in age (p ‹ 0/001). On total AQ, a main effect for group and sex was found. ASD parents scored higher than controls (F(1,410)=77.876, P ‹ 0/001) and males scored higher than females (F(1,410)=23.324, P ‹ 0/001). Also, Group by Sex interaction was significant (F(1,410)=4.986, P ‹ 0/05). Results of MANOVA analysis displayed significant differences between ASD's subgroups on total AQ and subscales scores (F (15, 1121)=13.924, p < 0.0005; Wilk's Lambda= 0.624, partial =0.145). Pairwise comparisons between ASD's subgroups and Normal group showed that mean scores for the Asperger group are significantly more than other groups in total AQ, attention switching and communication subscales (p < 0.05). The frequencies of BAP (X^2=52.721 (DF=1), P ‹ 0/001), MAP (X^2=17.133 (DF=1), P ‹ 0/001) and NAP (X^2=12.722 (DF=1), P ‹ 0/001) in ASD parents were significantly more than control parents. The frequencies of Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP) (X^2=3.842 (DF=1), P›0/05) and Medium Autism phenotype (MAP) (X^2=0.060 (DF=1), P›0/05) did not significantly differ in ASD fathers and mothers, but the proportion of fathers in Narrow Autism Phenotype(NAP) range was more than mothers (X2=14.344, P ‹ 0/001).
Results of the present study revealed that parents of children with ASD scored significantly higher than control parents on total AQ and its subscales and the rates of BAP, MAP and NAP were higher in ASD parents than in controls. In addition, in ASD's subgroups, the parents of Asperger children scored significantly more than other subgroups (Autism and PDD-nos) and the normal group on total AQ and some subscales.
Autistic disorder; Child; Iran; Parents
The genetic basis for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptoms in children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was addressed using a genome-wide linkage approach.
Participants of the International Multi-Center ADHD Genetics study comprising 1143 probands with ADHD and 1453 siblings were analyzed. The total and subscale scores of the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) were used as quantitative traits for multipoint regression-based linkage analyses on 5407 autosomal single-nucleotide polymorphisms applying MERLIN-regress software, both without and with inclusion of ADHD symptom scores as covariates.
The analyses without ADHD symptom scores as covariates resulted in 3 suggestive linkage signals, i.e., on chromosomes 15q24, 16p13, and 18p11. Inclusion of ADHD symptom scores as covariates resulted in additional suggestive loci on chromosomes 7q36 and 12q24, whereas the LOD score of the locus on chromosome 15q decreased below the threshold for suggestive linkage. The loci on 7q, 16p, and 18p were found for the SCQ restricted & repetitive subscale, that on 15q was found for the SCQ communication subscale, and that on 12q for the SCQ total score.
Our findings suggest that QTLs identified in this study are ASD specific, although the 15q QTL potentially has pleiotropic effects for ADHD and ASD. This study confirms that genetic factors influence ASD traits along a continuum of severity, as loci potentially underlying ASD symptoms in children with ADHD were identified even though subjects with autism had been excluded from the IMAGE sample, and supports the hypothesis that differential genetic factors underlie the three ASD dimensions.
ADHD; autism spectrum disorder; linkage; comorbidity
The present study was conducted with the aim to identify comorbid psychiatric disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) (n = 40) and to compare those comorbidity rates to those in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (n = 40). Participants were clinically referred children aged 7–18 years. DSM-IV classifications were used for the primary diagnosis (ASD/ADHD), while comorbid psychiatric disorders were assessed using a structured diagnostic interview, the structured clinical interview for DSM-IV, childhood diagnoses (KID-SCID). Twenty-three children with ASD (57.5 %) had at least one comorbid disorder, whereas 16 children with ADHD (40.0 %) were classified as having at least one comorbid disorder. No group differences were found with respect to this comorbidity rate or for the rate of comorbid externalizing disorders (ODD and/or CD). However, children with ASD had more comorbid internalizing disorders compared to children with ADHD. More specifically, children with ASD had higher rates of anxiety disorders, but not mood disorders. No associations between comorbidity and age or between comorbidity and the intelligence quotient was found. It is important for clinicians to always be aware of, and screen for, comorbidity, and to consider treatment for these comorbid disorders. In addition, research should focus on establishing valid and reliable screening tools as well as effective treatment options for these comorbid disorders.
ASD; ADHD; Children; Psychiatric comorbidity
Parent and teacher ratings of core attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, as well as behavioral and emotional problems commonly comorbid with ADHD, were compared in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Participants were 86 children (66 boys; mean: age=9.3 years, intelligence quotient [IQ]=84) who met American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (DSM-IV) criteria for an ASD on the Autism Diagnostic Interview–Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Parent and teacher behavioral ratings were compared on the Conners' Parent and Teacher Rating Scales (CPRS-R; CTRS-R). The degree to which age, ASD subtype, severity of autistic symptomatology, and medication status mediated this relationship was also examined.
Significant positive correlations between parent and teacher ratings suggest that a child's core ADHD symptoms—as well as closely related externalizing symptoms—are perceived similarly by parents and teachers. With the exception of oppositional behavior, there was no significant effect of age, gender, ASD subtype, or autism severity on the relationship between parent and teacher ratings. In general, parents rated children as having more severe symptomatology than did teachers. Patterns of parent and teacher ratings were highly correlated, both for children who were receiving medication, and for children who were not.
Parents and teachers perceived core symptoms of ADHD and closely-related externalizing problems in a similar manner, but there is less agreement on ratings of internalizing problems (e.g., anxiety). The clinical implication of these findings is that both parents and teachers provide important behavioral information about children with ASD. However, when a clinician is unable to access teacher ratings (e.g., during school vacations), parent ratings can provide a reasonable estimate of the child's functioning in these domains in school. As such, parent ratings can be reliably used to make initial diagnostic and treatment decisions (e.g., medication treatment) regarding ADHD symptoms in children with ASDs.
High rates of Substance Use Disorders (SUD) have been found in samples of adolescents and adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Predictors of SUD among ADHD children who are at risk for the development of SUD remain understudied. The main aims of this study were to identify clinically meaningful characteristics of children that predicted the future development of SUD and to see whether the role of these characteristics varied by sex.
Subjects were children and adolescents with (N=268; mean age ± SD = 10.9 ± 3.2 years) and without (N=229; mean age 11.9 ± 3.3 years) DSM-III-R ADHD followed prospectively and blindly over a ten-year follow-up period onto young adult years. Subjects were assessed with structured diagnostic interviews for psychopathology and SUDs.
Over the ten-year follow-up period, ADHD was found to be a significant predictor of any SUD (Hazards Ratio, (95% Confidence Interval) = 1.47 (1.07, 2.02); p=0.01) and cigarette smoking (2.38 (1.61, 3.53); p<0.01). Within ADHD, comorbid conduct disorder (2.74 (1.66, 4.52); p<0.01) and oppositional defiant disorder (2.21 (1.40, 3.51); p<0.01) at baseline were also found to be significant predictors of SUD. We found similar results for cigarette, alcohol, and drug use disorders. There were few meaningful sex interaction effects. We did not find any clinically significant associations for any social or family environment factors nor cognitive functioning factors (all p values > 0.05).
These results indicate that ADHD is a significant risk factor for the development of SUD and cigarette smoking in both sexes.
ADHD; substance-use disorders; longitudinal follow-up; conduct disorder
Many youths with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) benefit from psychotropic medication treatment of co-morbid symptom patterns consistent with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The lack of clear indications and algorithms to direct clinical practice has led to a very poor understanding of overall medication use for these youths. The present study examined the prevalence of psychotropic medication use compared across individuals with an ASD without a caregiver-reported ADHD diagnosis (ASD-only), ADHD without ASD (ADHD-only), and an ASD with co-morbid ADHD (ASD+ADHD). Correlates of medication use were also examined.
Data on psychotropic medication from the first wave of the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2, a nationally representative study of adolescents ages 13–17 in special education, were used to compare the prevalence of medication use across the three groups, overall and by class. Separate logistic regression models were constructed for each group to examine the correlates of psychotropic medication use. Poisson regression models were used to examine correlates of the number of medications.
Youths with ASD+ADHD had the highest rates of use (58.2%), followed by youths with ADHD-only (49.0%) and youths with ASD-only (34.3%). Youths with an ASD, both ASD-only and ASD+ADHD, used medications across a variety of medication classes, whereas stimulants were dominant among youths with ADHD-only. African American youths with ASD-only and with ASD+ADHD were less likely to receive medication than white youths, whereas race was not associated with medication use in the ADHD-only group.
Clearer practice parameters for ADHD have likely contributed to more consistency in treatment, whereas treatment for ASD reflects a trial and error approach based on associated symptom patterns. Additional studies examining the treatment of core and associated ASD symptoms are needed to guide pharmacologic treatment of these youths. Interventions targeting African American youths with ASD and the physicians who serve them are also warranted.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) often struggle with complex tasks, such as those requiring divided attention (simultaneously completing two independent tasks) which also place high demands on working memory. Prior research shows that divided attention is impaired in adults and children with ASD, and is related to ASD and co-morbid attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder ADHD symptoms, but the impact on everyday functioning is unclear. Because ADHD symptoms are associated with poor divided attention and working memory performance in children with ASD, we also examined ADHD symptoms as moderators of divided attention performance.
We examined performance on the Consonant Trigrams Test (CTT) between high-functioning 8–13-year-olds with ASD (n=28) and typically developing controls (n=18) matched on age and IQ. In the ASD group, we also correlated performance with ADHD symptoms and behavior ratings of everyday working memory.
CTT performance in children with ASD was significantly worse than in matched controls. A significant correlation between CTT performance and everyday working memory was observed, but CTT performance was not related to co-morbid ADHD symptoms, in the ASD group.
Divided attention with high working memory demands is a relative weakness in children with high-functioning ASD, this weakness relates to everyday functioning, and it is independent from ADHD symptoms. That ADHD symptoms are not associated with divided attention performance is inconsistent with one prior investigation, which likely results from using different divided attention tasks in the two studies.
Recent estimates suggest that over 30% of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) meet diagnostic criteria for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and another 20% of children with ASD exhibit subthreshold clinical ADHD symptoms. Presence of ADHD symptoms in the context of ASD could have a variety of effects on cognition, autistic traits, and adaptive/maladaptive behaviors including: exacerbating core ASD impairments; adding unique impairments specific to ADHD; producing new problems unreported in ASD or ADHD; having no clear impact; or producing some combination of these scenarios. Children with ASD and co-morbid ADHD symptoms (ASD+ADHD; n=21), children with ASD without ADHD (ASD; n=28), and a typically developing control group (n=21) were included in the study; all groups were matched on age, gender-ratio, IQ, and socioeconomic status. Data were collected on verbal and spatial working memory, response inhibition, global executive control, autistic traits, adaptive functioning, and maladaptive behavior problems. In this sample, the presence of ADHD symptoms in ASD exacerbated impairments in executive control and adaptive behavior and resulted in higher autistic trait, and externalizing behavior ratings. ADHD symptoms were also associated with greater impairments on a lab measure of verbal working memory. These findings suggest that children with ASD+ADHD symptoms present with exacerbated impairments in some but not all domains of functioning relative to children with ASD, most notably in adaptive behavior and working memory. Therefore, ADHD may moderate the expression of components of the ASD cognitive and behavioral phenotype, but ASD+ADHD may not represent an etiologically distinct phenotype from ASD alone.
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show deficits in development of motor skills, in addition to core deficits in social skill development. In a previous study (Haswell et al., 2009) we found that children with autism show a key difference in how they learn motor actions, with a bias for relying on joint position rather than visual feedback; further, this pattern of motor learning predicted impaired motor, imitation and social abilities. We were interested in finding out whether this altered motor learning pattern was specific to autism. To do so, we examined children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), who also show deficits in motor control. Children learned a novel movement and we measured rates of motor learning, generalization patterns of motor learning, and variability of motor speed during learning. We found children with ASD show a slower rate of learning and, consistent with previous findings, an altered pattern of generalization that was predictive of impaired motor, imitation, and social impairment. In contrast, children with ADHD showed a normal rate of learning and a normal pattern of generalization; instead, they (and they alone), showed excessive variability in movement speed. The findings suggest that there is a specific pattern of altered motor learning associated with autism.
The brain builds an association between action and sensory feedback to predict the sensory consequence of self-generated motor commands. This internal model of action is central to our ability to adapt movements, and may also play a role in our ability to learn from observing others. Recently we reported that the spatial generalization patterns that accompany adaptation of reaching movements were distinct in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as compared to typically developing (TD) children. To test whether the generalization patterns are specific to ASD, here we compared the patterns of adaptation to those in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Consistent with our previous observations, we found that in ASD the motor memory showed greater than normal generalization in proprioceptive coordinates compared with both TD children and children with ADHD; children with ASD also showed slower rates of adaptation compared with both control groups. Children with ADHD did not show this excessive generalization to the proprioceptive target, but did show excessive variability in the speed of movements with an increase in the exponential distribution of responses (τ) as compared with both TD children and children with ASD. The results suggest that slower rate of adaptation and anomalous bias towards proprioceptive feedback during motor learning is characteristic of autism; whereas increased variability in execution is characteristic of ADHD.
Adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are known to be at significantly greater risk for the development of substance use disorders (SUD) compared to peers. Impulsivity, which could lead to higher levels of drug use, is a known symptom of ADHD and likely accounts, in part, for this relationship. Other factors, such as a biologically increased susceptibility to substance dependence (addiction), may also play a role.
This report further examines the relationships between childhood ADHD, adolescent- onset SUD, and substance abuse and substance dependence in adulthood.
Individuals with childhood ADHD and non-ADHD controls from the same population-based birth cohort were invited to participate in a prospective outcome study. Participants completed a structured neuropsychiatric interview with modules for SUD and a psychosocial questionnaire. Information on adolescent SUD was obtained retrospectively, in a previous study, from medical and school records. Associations were summarized using odds ratios (OR) and 95% CIs estimated from logistic regression models adjusted for age and gender.
A total of 232 ADHD cases and 335 non-ADHD controls participated (mean age, 27.0 and 28.6 years, respectively). ADHD cases were more likely than controls to have a SUD diagnosed in adolescence and were more likely to have alcohol (adjusted OR 14.38, 95% CI 1.49–138.88) and drug (adjusted OR 3.48, 95% CI 1.38–8.79) dependence in adulthood. The subgroup of participating ADHD cases who did not have SUD during adolescence were no more likely than controls to develop new onset alcohol dependence as adults, although they were significantly more likely to develop new onset drug dependence.
Our study found preliminary evidence that adults with childhood ADHD are more susceptible than peers to developing drug dependence, a disorder associated with neurological changes in the brain. The relationship between ADHD and alcohol dependence appears to be more complex.
Research studies have uncovered several metabolic abnormalities associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including mitochondrial disease (MD) and abnormal redox metabolism. Despite the close connection between mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress, the relation between MD and oxidative stress in children with ASD has not been studied. Plasma markers of oxidative stress and measures of cognitive and language development and ASD behavior were obtained from 18 children diagnosed with ASD who met criteria for probable or definite MD per the Morava et al. criteria (ASD/MD) and 18 age and gender-matched ASD children without any biological markers or symptoms of MD (ASD/NoMD). Plasma measures of redox metabolism included reduced free glutathione (fGSH), oxidized glutathione (GSSG), the fGSH/GSSG ratio and 3-nitrotyrosine (3NT). In addition, a plasma measure of chronic immune activation, 3-chlorotyrosine (3CT), was also measured. Language was measured using the preschool language scale or the expressive one-word vocabulary test (depending on the age), adaptive behaviour was measured using the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (VABS) and core autism symptoms were measured using the Autism Symptoms Questionnaire and the Social Responsiveness Scale. Children with ASD/MD were found to have lower scores on the communication and daily living skill subscales of the VABS despite having similar language and ASD symptoms. Children with ASD/MD demonstrated significantly higher levels of fGSH/GSSG and lower levels of GSSG as compared with children with ASD/NoMD, suggesting an overall more favourable glutathione redox status in the ASD/MD group. However, compare with controls, both ASD groups demonstrated lower fGSH and fGSH/GSSG, demonstrating that both groups suffer from redox abnormalities. Younger ASD/MD children had higher levels of 3CT than younger ASD/NoMD children because of an age-related effect in the ASD/MD group. Both ASD groups demonstrated significantly higher 3CT levels than control subjects, suggesting that chronic inflammation was present in both groups of children with ASD. Interestingly, 3NT was found to correlate positively with several measures of cognitive function, development and behavior for the ASD/MD group, but not the ASD/NoMD group, such that higher 3NT concentrations were associated with more favourable adaptive behaviour, language and ASD-related behavior. To determine whether difference in receiving medications and/or supplements could account for the differences in redox and inflammatory biomarkers across ASD groups, we examined differences in medication and supplements across groups and their effect of redox and inflammatory biomarkers. Overall, significantly more participants in the ASD/MD group were receiving folate, vitamin B12, carnitine, co-enzyme Q10, B vitamins and antioxidants. We then determined whether folate, carnitine, co-enzyme Q10, B vitamins and/or antioxidants influenced redox or inflammatory biomarkers. Antioxidant supplementation was associated with a significantly lower GSSG, whereas antioxidants, co-enzyme Q10 and B vitamins were associated with a higher fGSH/GSSG ratio. There was no relation between folate, carnitine, co-enzyme Q10, B vitamins and antioxidants with 3NT, 3CT or fGSH. Overall, our findings suggest that ASD/MD children with a more chronic oxidized microenvironment have better development. We interpret this finding in light of the fact that more active mitochondrial can create a greater oxidized microenvironment especially when dysfunctional. Thus, compensatory upregulation of mitochondria which are dysfunctional may both increase activity and function at the expense of a more oxidized microenvironment. Although more ASD/MD children were receiving certain supplements, the use of such supplements were not found to be related to the redox biomarkers that were related to cognitive development or behavior in the ASD/MD group but could possibly account for the difference in glutathione metabolism noted between groups. This study suggests that different subgroups of children with ASD have different redox abnormalities, which may arise from different sources. A better understanding of the relationship between mitochondrial dysfunction in ASD and oxidative stress, along with other factors that may contribute to oxidative stress, will be critical to understanding how to guide treatment and management of ASD children. This study also suggests that it is important to identify ASD/MD children as they may respond differently to specific treatments because of their specific metabolic profile.
autism; inflammation; endophenotypes; mitochondrial disease; oxidative stress
To explore the specificity of impaired praxis and postural knowledge to autism by examining three samples of children, including those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and typically developing (TD) children.
Twenty-four children with ASD, 24 children with ADHD, and 24 TD children, ages 8–13, completed measures assessing basic motor control (the Physical and Neurological Exam for Subtle Signs; PANESS), praxis (performance of skilled gestures to command, with imitation, and tool use) and the ability to recognize correct hand postures necessary to perform these skilled gestures (the Postural Knowledge Test; PKT).
Children with ASD performed significantly worse than TD children on all three assessments. In contrast, children with ADHD performed significantly worse than TD controls on PANESS but not on the praxis examination or PKT. Furthermore, children with ASD performed significantly worse than children with ADHD on both the praxis examination and PKT, but not on the PANESS.
Whereas both children with ADHD and children with ASD show impairments in basic motor control, impairments in performance and recognition of skilled motor gestures, consistent with dyspraxia, appear to be specific to autism. The findings suggest that impaired formation of perceptual-motor action models necessary to development of skilled gestures and other goal directed behavior is specific to autism; whereas, impaired basic motor control may be a more generalized finding.
imitation; motor learning; procedural learning; premotor cortex; inferior parietal lobe
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are often comorbid and share behavioural-cognitive abnormalities in sustained attention. A key question is whether this shared cognitive phenotype is based on common or different underlying pathophysiologies. To elucidate this question, we compared 20 boys with ADHD to 20 age and IQ matched ASD and 20 healthy boys using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a parametrically modulated vigilance task with a progressively increasing load of sustained attention. ADHD and ASD boys had significantly reduced activation relative to controls in bilateral striato–thalamic regions, left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and superior parietal cortex. Both groups also displayed significantly increased precuneus activation relative to controls. Precuneus was negatively correlated with the DLPFC activation, and progressively more deactivated with increasing attention load in controls, but not patients, suggesting problems with deactivation of a task-related default mode network in both disorders. However, left DLPFC underactivation was significantly more pronounced in ADHD relative to ASD boys, which furthermore was associated with sustained performance measures that were only impaired in ADHD patients. ASD boys, on the other hand, had disorder-specific enhanced cerebellar activation relative to both ADHD and control boys, presumably reflecting compensation. The findings show that ADHD and ASD boys have both shared and disorder-specific abnormalities in brain function during sustained attention. Shared deficits were in fronto–striato–parietal activation and default mode suppression. Differences were a more severe DLPFC dysfunction in ADHD and a disorder-specific fronto–striato–cerebellar dysregulation in ASD.
ADHD; ASD; attention; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; fMRI
Diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are increasingly being made in adulthood. However, assessments can fail to address the diverse range of problems that patients have experienced. The current study applied an early symptomatic syndromes eliciting neurodevelopmental clinical examinations (ESSENCE) framework to explore retrospectively reported childhood developmental and behavioral problems. It examined if adult ASD and ADHD patients would show problems outside those reflected in the respective diagnostic criteria, and also if these patient groups would show more extensive childhood problems than other psychiatric patients. Parents of adults with ADHD (n = 130), ASD (n = 57), coexisting ADHD and ASD (n = 38), and other psychiatric disorders (n = 56) reported on a range of childhood problems. Descriptions of the ADHD, ASD, and ADHD+ASD groups reflected greater impairment than descriptions for patients with other psychiatric disorders in most problem areas. Although differences were observed between ADHD and ASD patients in the core diagnostic areas, these syndromes also shared a number of childhood difficulties. The ESSENCE approach can assist in understanding the symptom history of adult ADHD and ASD patients and can be helpful to distinguish their childhood experiences from other psychiatric patients' experiences.