Reasons for treatment changes in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a chart review study

BMC Psychiatry, 2022


Adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often cycle through multiple treatments for reasons that are not well documented. This study analyzed the reasons underlying treatment changes among adults treated for ADHD in a real-world setting.


Data were collected via an online reporting form completed by eligible physicians between October and November 2020. Data for adult patients in the United States who were diagnosed with ADHD and initiated a treatment regimen within 1 to 5 years of chart abstraction were obtained. Reason for a treatment change was described for a randomly selected regimen episode, which spanned from treatment initiation until the earliest among treatment add-on/switch or discontinuation, death, or date of chart abstraction. The overall rate of ADHD/treatment-related complications were also described. Physician satisfaction with current treatment options for adult ADHD and opinions on areas for improvement were assessed.


Data on 320 patients were reported by 152 physicians specializing in psychiatry (40.1%), pediatrics (25.0%), family medicine (21.7%), and internal medicine (13.2%). Patients had a mean age of 29.3 years; most were diagnosed with ADHD as adults (57.5%) and within the previous 5 years (56.5%). Selected treatment regimens included stimulants (79.1%), nonstimulants (14.7%), and combination therapy (5.6%) for an average duration of 1.9 years. Among patients with treatment discontinuation (N = 59), the most common reasons for discontinuation were suboptimal symptom management (55.9%), occurrence of ADHD/treatment-related complications (25.4%), and patient attitude/dislike of medication (25.4%). The main reasons for other key treatment changes were inadequate/suboptimal management of symptoms and cost considerations. Over 40% of patients had ≥ 1 documented ADHD/treatment-related complication, irrespective of whether they led to a treatment change. One in 5 physicians (19.8%) were very dissatisfied, moderately dissatisfied, or neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with current treatment options for ADHD in adults; the top 3 suggested improvements were lower risk of abuse (71.7%), longer effect duration (65.1%), and fewer ADHD/treatment-related complications (61.2%).


The top reasons for treatment changes among adults with ADHD are lack of efficacy and ADHD/treatment-related complications, highlighting the importance of developing more effective and safer treatments to alleviate the burden of ADHD.

View abstract


Schein J, Childress A, Cloutier M, Desai U, Chin A, Simes M, Guerin A,  Adams J