ADHD News & Research

Study: People with ADHD Twice as Likely to Develop Early-Onset Parkinson’s

Preliminary research indicates an increased risk of developing progressive nervous system disorders – like Parkinson’s disease – among individuals who have ADHD and are treated with medication.

September 14, 2018

The risk of early-onset Parkinson’s disease and similar disorders is 2.4 times greater among patients with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) than it is among individuals of the same gender and age without ADHD. What’s more, there may be a staggering six- to eight-times higher likelihood of Parkinson’s among patients treated with stimulant medications – methylphenidate (e.g., Concerta, Daytrana, Ritalin) or amphetamine (e.g., Adderall, Evekeo, Dexedrine) — compared to the general population.

These are the preliminary study findings published this week by a team of researchers from the University of Utah Health, which is quick to point out that its data does not indicate that ADHD medications cause Parkinson’s disease. The absolute risk of developing Parkinson’s, even for those treated with ADHD medication, remains very low – only eight or nine people in 100,000.

The study1, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, retrospectively examined medical records from the Utah Population Database (UPDB) of 31,769 patients with ADHD and 158,790 individuals without the condition. Of the ADHD sample, 2,716 were prescribed amphetamine salts, 1,941 were prescribed methylphenidate, and 303 received both medications. The included patients were Utah residents ages 20-60 who had no prior diagnosis of Parkinson’s or a similar disease.

The researchers controlled for some factors that increase risk of developing Parkinson’s including psychotic disorders, tobacco use, and a history of drug/alcohol abuse. They were unable to control for other risk factors including head trauma, brain injury, or environmental toxins.

The reason for the increased risk among patients with ADHD is unclear. Additional research is needed to determine the root cause of the association between ADHD and Parkinson’s — both disorders that impact the central nervous system and release of dopamine in the brain. Some posit that the true association is between Parkinson’s and severity of ADHD, not necessarily ADHD medication and progressive nervous system disorders. Meaning, people with more severe ADHD may be more likely to take medication to manage symptoms, and more likely to develop degenerative neurological diseases — even if they did not use medication to manage symptoms. These theories must be tested in further research.

This study received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

1Karen Curtin, Annette E. Fleckenstein, Brooks R. Keeshin, et al. “Increased risk of diseases of the basal ganglia and cerebellum in patients with a history of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” Neuropsychopharmacology, 12 September 2018. doi: 10.1038/s41386-018-0207-5

6 Comments & Reviews

  1. While I appreciate the results from this ONE research study (notice I said “ONE”), without multiple studies and collaborative data that actually proves and defines an actual connection between stimulants (or ADD/ADHD) and Parkinsons, this article serves no purpose other than to create fear and further controversy surrounding the ADD/ADHD condition and effective treatment. Additionally, what are the millions of people with ADD/ADHD to do with research anyways, that ends up saying that they are now 2.7x more likely to develop Parkinsons? I appreciate research, I really do. But this particular information, in the here and now, is useless. Especially when people come to this website looking for help.

    1. Just my thoughts. I’ve been thinking about it all day since I read the article. I’m in the process of finding the right medication and is between two types. Now I’m not sure if I want to continue.

    2. I would hardly say this research is “useless”:-) The research is hardly some random blogger or “friend of a cousin’s postman’d kid has ADHD and he..” type information. The journal of Neuropsychopharmacology is kinda a big-deal serious academic journal…you can’t get more deeply, properly researched than that.

      It’s freaky information to find out that’s for sure. But I’d rather know the information right now than in 9 years time when they have more information, and in the meantime I’ve been loading 9 years worth of these chemicals into my brain. I’ve been in academia for years – not science, but I know this journal – so I’m properly, seriously spooked & off these meds NOW. The meds do make my life easier…but they’re not worth Parkinsons.

      1. It is unsettling info, to be sure, for anyone on meds.

        BUT— the point is made at the very end of this piece and sounds to me to be entirely possible (though I am not a doctor), “…people with more severe ADHD may be more likely to take medication to manage symptoms, and more likely to develop degenerative diseases…”.

        Correlation does not mean causation.

  2. I was diagnosed with Parkinson”s syndrome in may of last year. I had essential tremors since age 55. I have a stooped posture, right arm was not moving. I also have a pulsating feeling in my body. My legs tingle and they were cold.i was advised to give a try on Total cure herbal foundation herbal formula by my doctors which i truly did and the herbal treatment help me get rid Parkinson disease PD within the short period of 15 weeks usage,please do not hesitate to place an order from them at totalcureherbsfoundation .c om because the herbal products relief me automatically and terminated all the symptoms.

  3. I believe the title and particularly the content of the article misleading compared to the actual research report. The report noted that “basal ganglia and cerebellar disorders” occur at higher frequency in those with ADHD and more so in those treated with stimulant medication. It did NOT specifically cite Parksinson’s Disease as the disorder involved, but included it in the category. The article above states “What’s more, there may be a staggering six- to eight-times higher likelihood of Parkinson’s among patients treated with stimulant medications.” The research article states “…ADHD patients prescribed psychostimulants, risk of basal ganglia and cerebellum diseases between ages 21 and 49 years was especially pronounced, at 8.6-fold…”.
    Specifying Parkinson’s Disease as being of increased frequency related to stimulant use and the use of the word “staggering” overstates the conclusions of the research article. I can see that it makes a great headline but it is not accurate nor responsible journalism. There is enough myth-information out there about ADHD and treatments of it without a magazine which purports to educate about ADHD exaggerating very preliminary research findings spreading more.

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