Prescription drug Vyvanse significantly lowers brain sluggishness in adults with ADHD

NEW YORK — ADHD (or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is not something that only affects kids, adults deal with it as well. In fact, estimates show over three million U.S. adults deal with ADHD each year. Now, a new study finds a prescription drug which typically only works with children can relieve the mental sluggishness and fatigue adults with the condition experience.

Researchers from New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine say the stimulant lisdexamfetamine, which also goes by its brand name Vyvanse®, can lower symptoms of sluggish brain tempo by up to 30 percent. The drug also reduced ADHD symptoms by over 40 percent. For adults, those symptoms can include hyperactivity, fidgeting, impulsivity, irritability, engaging in risk taking behaviors, and showing a lack of restraint.

Vyvanse also reversed problems with executive brain function in these patients, such as reducing procrastination and strengthening prioritization skills. Overall, a team from NYU and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai tested the drug on 38 adult ADHD patients. Half of the group took daily doses of Vyvanse for one month, while the other half took a placebo. The groups then switched medications, going from the ADHD stimulant to a placebo and vice versa.

Until now, scientists have debated whether symptoms like sluggish cognitive tempo is a separate issue from ADHD.

What makes ADHD so bad for adults?

No matter how old the patient is, ADHD is a mental health condition which makes it difficult to pay attention. In adults, this can lead to unstable relationships, problems and poor performance at work, and low self-esteem.

Moreover, researchers say stimulants have only proven effective in improving brain sluggishness in children until this experiment. The is the first study to show drugs like Vyvanse can do the same for adult ADHD patients.

Results show one-quarter of the improvements in the sluggish cognitive tempo, such as boredom and confusion, were due to improvements in symptoms of ADHD. With that in mind, study authors believe reducing ADHD-related restlessness and impulsivity has at least some link to sluggish brain performance.

“Our study provides further evidence that sluggish cognitive tempo may be distinct from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and that the stimulant lisdexamfetamine treats both conditions in adults, and when they occur together,” says lead study investigator and psychiatrist Lenard A. Adler, MD, in a university release.

Dr. Adler adds the findings reveal sluggish cognitive tempo is likely a “subset of symptoms” which patients with ADHD or other psychiatric conditions commonly deal with. Unfortunately, it’s still not clear if brain sluggishness is a completely separate psychiatric disorder or just a side-effect of other conditions.

“These findings highlight the importance of assessing symptoms of sluggish cognitive tempo and executive brain function in patients when they are initially diagnosed with ADHD,” Dr. Adler concludes.

The findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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