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Brain Scans: Two ADHD Medications May Be Better than One

When 208 kids and teens, ages 7 to 14, received the ADHD medications guanfacine (Intuniv, Tenex)4 or d-methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, and other brand names)5 or both drugs for eight weeks, researchers from the University of California Los Angeles found that those taking the combination got the biggest improvements in attention.

Brain scans showed improvements in brain activity related to better-thinking skills and improvements in ADHD symptoms only in the combo therapy group. Those taking d-methylphenidate or the combo also saw gains in working memory.

A 2018 study 6 from the Center for Pediatric Excellence in, Ottawa, Canada published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, found similar benefits for a drug combination. Fifty kids, ages 6 to 12 with persistent ADHD symptoms despite taking a stimulant received the drug guanfacine or a placebo as an add-on treatment for eight weeks.

After a three-week break without the add-on therapy, 39 of the children were switched from a placebo to the drug or from the drug to a placebo. Researchers found that in children who got the add-on guanfacine there was a significant improvement in executive function.

Scores improved by 30% or more for twice as many in the guanfacine group as in the placebo group

Updated: Apr 7, 2021
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