Adult ADHD: Treatment of a Grown-up Disorder

Edward M. DeSimone II, RPh, PhD, FAPhA; Kellie Busby, PharmD Candidate


US Pharmacist. 2014;39(1):52-57. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often thought of as a disorder of childhood, but approximately one-half of individuals who exhibit ADHD early in life will go on to have persistent symptoms into adulthood. These symptoms generally differ in presentation from the typical presentation of a school-aged child with hyperactivity and academic difficulties. Further complicating the picture is the fact that co-occurring psychiatric disorders that were not apparent during an individual's younger years can present in later adolescence. Therefore, the diagnosis and treatment of symptomatic patients can change over time, requiring some similar and some unique approaches to therapeutically managing ADHD in adults.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD; also called attention-deficit disorder) is a neurobehavioral condition that causes impairments in concentration, impulsivity, and cognitive processing. As with many psychiatric conditions, the diagnosis of ADHD relies on subjective observations. Attempts to pinpoint the neuropathology of ADHD are ongoing. It was formerly believed that ADHD was a disorder of childhood that resolved with age. It was not until the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition–Revised, in 1987 that the existence of ADHD in adults was recognized, provoking the question of how patients with childhood ADHD differ from those who continue to have symptoms beyond adolescence.[1] Although this question has not been completely answered, current research has been able to increase understanding of ADHD and how to best manage the unique symptomology of the adult patient.