The Link between ADHD and Parkinsons’

Posted on September 17, 2018

ADHD is characterized by impulsive behaviours with features of inattentiveness and hyperactivity whereas Parkinson’s disease is a neurological movement disorder that is typically diagnosed in patients aged 60 or older. It is characterized by difficulties in initiating and controlling movement due to the loss of neurons in the brain that produce dopamine. Currently, it is not a curable disease, hence, treatment tends to focus on alleviating the symptoms.

Before the present study, there has been no other known disease linked to Parkinson’s. In fact, the writers believe that this study is the first to link a childhood disorder to a neurodegenerative disorder much later on in life, which highlights the need for further study on the long-term effects of ADHD.

The etiology of Parkinson’s has been correlated to a combination of certain genetic and environmental factors.

The present study found that individuals with an ADHD diagnosis had twice the risk of developing Parkinson’s, and when this diagnosis was combined with having taken psychostimulant medication, the risk increases dramatically to being 6-8 times higher than the control population.

The idea for the present study was derived from earlier research showing higher incidences of Parkinson’s in individuals who had abused methamphetamines (meth). Psychostimulant medications prescribed to alleviate ADHD symptoms are usually amphetamines, and both amphetamines and meth are stimulants in that they increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. Since earlier studies have shown that individuals who abused meth in the past had thrice the risk of developing Parkinson’s, the researchers wanted to investigate if the commonality between amphetamines and meth would produce similar results – higher risk of developing Parkinson’s later on in life.

It is worth noting that prescriptive amphetamines are a “much lower dose” than the amphetamines found in meth. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises medications for ADHD and/or behavior therapy for children and adolescents ages 6 to 18.

Parents of children prescribed with psychostimulants to alleviate ADHD symptoms should interpret the present results with caution before worrying. This is a preliminary study aimed at examining a possible link between psychostimulants and Parkinson’s which means that (1) it is not a causal relationship and (2) even if there is a strong link between the two (which has not been proven scientifically yet) there are other variables that could explain the observed relationship. It could be that children who are prescribed with psychostimulants have a more severe form of ADHD which therefore required medication to manage the problem. Hence, it could be that the more severe form of ADHD later leads to a higher risk for Parkinson’s, and not the medication itself.
Currently, psychologists agree that the benefits of using medication to manage ADHD symptoms still outweighs the possibility of having a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s later on.

Hopefully, future research would be able to investigate and draw out the exact mechanisms in the relationship between psychostimulant medication and Parkinson’s before conclusions can be drawn.

Category(s):Adult ADHD, Adult psychological development, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Inattention, Impulsivity, & Hyperactivity (ADHD), Midlife Crisis / Midlife Transition

Source material from Healthline