A recent study published in JAMA Network Open has found that adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be at a higher risk of developing dementia. The study, which analyzed health records of over 100,000 individuals, revealed that adults with ADHD had a 2.77-fold higher risk of developing dementia compared to those without ADHD. However, the study also discovered that individuals with ADHD who received treatment with psychostimulant medications did not have an increased risk of dementia.
The study included participants born between 1933 and 1952 and followed them until 2020. During this period, 730 individuals received a diagnosis of ADHD, while 7,726 were diagnosed with dementia. Interestingly, only a small percentage of adult ADHD cases were individuals who had the condition since childhood, suggesting the concept of adult-onset ADHD. The authors suggest that adult-onset ADHD may present different social, psychological, and genetic profiles compared to childhood ADHD.
However, some experts disagree with the notion of adult-onset ADHD. Dr. Brandy L. Callahan argues that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that must begin in childhood. Dr. Angel Golimstok explains that as individuals with adult ADHD age, the symptoms of cognitive decline become more pronounced, while dementia is a neurodegenerative condition characterized by a decline in brain health.
While ADHD and dementia both involve cognitive deficits, they present differently and have distinct timing. According to Dr. Sara Becker, factors associated with having ADHD, such as low educational attainment, depression, smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity, contribute to an increased risk of dementia. However, the exact association between ADHD and dementia remains to be fully understood.
Dr. Stephen Z. Levine, the lead author of the study, emphasizes that there are currently no approved ADHD medications for dementia. While some studies have suggested a potential link between ADHD medications and dementia risk, the current study found no evidence to support this claim. Further research is needed to investigate the benefits and potential harms associated with prescribing ADHD medications for dementia.
The study provides valuable insights into the relationship between adult ADHD and dementia, but there are still unanswered questions. Future research should explore factors such as sex differences, types of dementia, and specific risk factors that may define individuals at higher risk of developing dementia. Despite its limitations, the study’s large sample size and long follow-up time contribute to our understanding of the association between adult ADHD and dementia.