A new study reports on a unique method to address aggression among children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Researchers from Stony Brook University School of Medicine found that intensive stimulant therapy in conjunction with behavioral therapy could significantly reduce aggression among children whose aggressive behavior was not effectively controlled during routine outpatient care.

They found that almost half of children with ADHD and aggressive behaviors responded to “first-line” stimulant treatments tailored to individual needs, along with behavioral therapy.

The study findings are found in an early online edition of Pediatrics.

“The results of our research strongly suggest that more intensive and methodical approaches to prescribing stimulants may reduce the need to resort to antipsychotic medications to control severe aggression among children with ADHD,” says leads researcher Dr. Joseph C. Blader.

“And our findings are especially significant in light of recent concerns about the proliferation in the use of other medications with greater side effects, such as antipsychotic medication, than standard stimulant medication when treating children with ADHD who display aggressive behavior.”

Dr. Blader and colleagues studied 65 children between the ages of 6 and 13 who were diagnosed with ADHD and either oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder.

All of the children exhibited significant aggressive behavior and all had been treated unsuccessfully with standard doses of methylphenidate or dextroamphetamine, the active ingredients in stimulant medications that are standard treatments for ADHD.

The research team sufficiently reduced aggression in 32 of the 65 children (49 percent) after individually optimizing stimulant doses along with behavioral therapy. This dosage change also avoided any significant side effects in the patient grouping.

Dr. Blader explained that although established guidelines for the treatment of ADHD recommend careful and frequent dosage monitoring, as well as dose adjustments like those provided by the research team, previously published analyses came to a different conclusion than what he and his colleagues discovered.

Previous analyses of medical claims suggested that such a treatment approach is uncommon in primary care settings, and only moderately better when implemented in specialty settings.

The study was funded by a Research Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to Dr. Blader. Additional support came from the General Clinical Research Center at SBUMC.

The research team is currently collaborating on a SBU-led study evaluating treatment operations for children whose aggressive behavior remains problematic even after optimized ADHD medication. This research is also supported by NIMH.

Source: Stony Brook University Medical Center