Recommendations

People have the right to be involved in discussions and make informed decisions about their care, as described in your care.

Making decisions using NICE guidelines explains how we use words to show the strength (or certainty) of our recommendations, and has information about prescribing medicines (including off-label use), professional guidelines, standards and laws (including on consent and mental capacity), and safeguarding.

1.1 Service organisation and training

Service organisation

1.1.1 People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) would benefit from improved organisation of care and better integration of child health services, child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and adult mental health services. [2008]

1.1.2 Mental health services for children, young people and adults, and child health services, should form multidisciplinary specialist ADHD teams and/or clinics for children and young people, and separate teams and/or clinics for adults. These teams and clinics should have expertise in the diagnosis and management of ADHD, and should:

  • provide diagnostic, treatment and consultation services for people with ADHD who have complex needs, or where general psychiatric services are in doubt about the diagnosis and/or management of ADHD

  • put in place systems of communication and protocols for information sharing among paediatric, child and adolescent, forensic, and adult mental health services for people with ADHD, including arrangements for transition between child and adult services

  • produce local protocols for shared care arrangements with primary care providers, and ensure that clear lines of communication between primary and secondary care are maintained

  • ensure age-appropriate psychological services are available for children, young people and adults with ADHD, and for parents or carers.

    The size and time commitment of these teams should depend on local circumstances (for example, the size of the trust, the population covered and the estimated referral rate for people with ADHD). [2008, amended 2018]

1.1.3 Every locality should develop a multi-agency group, with representatives from multidisciplinary specialist ADHD teams, paediatrics, mental health and learning disability trusts, forensic services, child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), the Directorate for Children and Young People (DCYP) (including services for education and social services), parent support groups and others with a significant local involvement in ADHD services. The group should:

  • oversee the implementation of this guideline

  • start and coordinate local training initiatives, including the provision of training and information for teachers about the characteristics of ADHD and its basic behavioural management

  • oversee the development and coordination of parent-training/education programmes

  • consider compiling a comprehensive directory of information and services for ADHD including advice on how to contact relevant services and assist in the development of specialist teams. [2008, amended 2018]

1.1.4 A young person with ADHD receiving treatment and care from CAMHS or paediatric services should be reassessed at school-leaving age to establish the need for continuing treatment into adulthood. If treatment is necessary, arrangements should be made for a smooth transition to adult services with details of the anticipated treatment and services that the young person will require. Precise timing of arrangements may vary locally but should usually be completed by the time the young person is 18 years. See NICE's guideline on transition from children's to adults' services for young people using health or social care services. [2008, amended 2018]

1.1.5 During the transition to adult services, a formal meeting involving CAMHS and/or paediatrics and adult psychiatric services should be considered, and full information provided to the young person about adult services. For young people aged 16 years and older, the care programme approach (CPA) should be used as an aid to transfer between services. The young person, and when appropriate the parent or carer, should be involved in the planning. [2008]

1.1.6 After transition to adult services, adult healthcare professionals should carry out a comprehensive assessment of the person with ADHD that includes personal, educational, occupational and social functioning, and assessment of any coexisting conditions, especially drug misuse, personality disorders, emotional problems and learning difficulties. [2008]

Training

1.1.7 Trusts should ensure that specialist ADHD teams for children, young people and adults jointly develop age-appropriate training programmes for the diagnosis and management of ADHD for mental health, paediatric, social care, education, forensic and primary care providers and other professionals who have contact with people with ADHD. [2008]

1.1.8 Child and adult psychiatrists, paediatricians, and other child and adult mental health professionals (including those working in forensic services) should undertake training so that they are able to diagnose ADHD and provide treatment and management in accordance with this guideline. [2008]

1.2 Recognition, identification and referral

Recognition

1.2.1 Be aware that people in the following groups may have increased prevalence of ADHD compared with the general population:

  • people born preterm (see NICE's guideline on developmental follow-up of children and young people born preterm)

  • looked-after children and young people

  • children and young people diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder

  • children and young people with mood disorders (for example, anxiety and depression)

  • people with a close family member diagnosed with ADHD

  • people with epilepsy

  • people with neurodevelopmental disorders (for example, autism spectrum disorder, tic disorders, learning disability [intellectual disability] and specific learning difficulties)

  • adults with a mental health condition

  • people with a history of substance misuse

  • people known to the Youth Justice System or Adult Criminal Justice System

  • people with acquired brain injury. [2018]

1.2.2 Be aware that ADHD is thought to be under-recognised in girls and women and that:

  • they are less likely to be referred for assessment for ADHD

  • they may be more likely to have undiagnosed ADHD

  • they may be more likely to receive an incorrect diagnosis of another mental health or neurodevelopmental condition. [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on recognition and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

Identification and referral

1.2.3 Universal screening for ADHD should not be undertaken in nursery, primary and secondary schools. [2008]

1.2.4 When a child or young person with disordered conduct and suspected ADHD is referred to a school's special educational needs coordinator (SENCO), the SENCO, in addition to helping the child with their behaviour, should inform the parents about local parent-training/education programmes. See NICE's guideline on antisocial behaviour and conduct disorders in children and young people. [2008, amended 2018]

1.2.5 Referral from the community to secondary care may involve health, education and social care professionals (for example, GPs, paediatricians, educational psychologists, SENCOs, social workers) and care pathways can vary locally. The person making the referral to secondary care should inform the child or young person's GP. [2008]

1.2.6 When a child or young person presents in primary care with behavioural and/or attention problems suggestive of ADHD, primary care practitioners should determine the severity of the problems, how these affect the child or young person and the parents or carers, and the extent to which they pervade different domains and settings. [2008]

1.2.7 If the child or young person's behavioural and/or attention problems suggestive of ADHD are having an adverse impact on their development or family life, consider:

  • a period of watchful waiting of up to 10 weeks

  • offering parents or carers a referral to group-based ADHD-focused support (this should not wait for a formal diagnosis of ADHD).

    If the behavioural and/or attention problems persist with at least moderate impairment, the child or young person should be referred to secondary care (that is, a child psychiatrist, paediatrician, or specialist ADHD CAMHS) for assessment. [2008, amended 2018]

1.2.8 If the child or young person's behavioural and/or attention problems are associated with severe impairment, referral should be made directly to secondary care (that is, a child psychiatrist, paediatrician, or specialist ADHD CAMHS) for assessment. [2008]

1.2.9 Primary care practitioners should not make the initial diagnosis or start medication in children or young people with suspected ADHD. [2008]

1.2.10 Adults presenting with symptoms of ADHD in primary care or general adult psychiatric services, who do not have a childhood diagnosis of ADHD, should be referred for assessment by a mental health specialist trained in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, where there is evidence of typical manifestations of ADHD (hyperactivity/impulsivity and/or inattention) that:

  • began during childhood and have persisted throughout life

  • are not explained by other psychiatric diagnoses (although there may be other coexisting psychiatric conditions)

  • have resulted in or are associated with moderate or severe psychological, social and/or educational or occupational impairment. [2008]

1.2.11 Adults who have previously been treated for ADHD as children or young people and present with symptoms suggestive of continuing ADHD should be referred to general adult psychiatric services for assessment. The symptoms should be associated with at least moderate or severe psychological and/or social or educational or occupational impairment. [2008]

1.3 Diagnosis

1.3.1 A diagnosis of ADHD should only be made by a specialist psychiatrist, paediatrician or other appropriately qualified healthcare professional with training and expertise in the diagnosis of ADHD, on the basis of:

  • a full clinical and psychosocial assessment of the person; this should include discussion about behaviour and symptoms in the different domains and settings of the person's everyday life and

  • a full developmental and psychiatric history and

  • observer reports and assessment of the person's mental state. [2008]

1.3.2 A diagnosis of ADHD should not be made solely on the basis of rating scale or observational data. However, rating scales such as the Conners' rating scales and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire are valuable adjuncts, and observations (for example, at school) are useful when there is doubt about symptoms. [2008]

1.3.3 For a diagnosis of ADHD, symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity and/or inattention should:

  • meet the diagnostic criteria in DSM‑5 or ICD‑10 (hyperkinetic disorder)[1]and

  • cause at least moderate psychological, social and/or educational or occupational impairment based on interview and/or direct observation in multiple settings and

  • be pervasive, occurring in 2 or more important settings including social, familial, educational and/or occupational settings.

    As part of the diagnostic process, include an assessment of the person's needs, coexisting conditions, social, familial and educational or occupational circumstances and physical health. For children and young people, there should also be an assessment of their parents' or carers' mental health. [2008, amended 2018]

1.3.4 ADHD should be considered in all age groups, with symptom criteria adjusted for age-appropriate changes in behaviour. [2008]

1.3.5 In determining the clinical significance of impairment resulting from the symptoms of ADHD in children and young people, their views should be taken into account wherever possible. [2008]

1.4 Information and support

1.4.1 Use this guideline with NICE's guidelines on service user experience in adult mental health and patient experience in adult NHS services to improve the experience of care for adults with ADHD. The principles also apply to children and young people, and their parents or carers. [2018]

1.4.2 Healthcare professionals working with children and young people with ADHD should follow the recommendations on general principles of care in NICE's guideline on antisocial behaviour and conduct disorder in children and young people. This does not mean that all children and young people with ADHD have coexisting antisocial behaviour and conduct disorder but that the same general principles of care apply when working with children and young people with ADHD. [2018]

Supporting people with ADHD

1.4.3 Following a diagnosis of ADHD, have a structured discussion with people (and their families or carers as appropriate) about how ADHD could affect their life. This could include:

  • the positive impacts of receiving a diagnosis, such as:

    • improving their understanding of symptoms

    • identifying and building on individual strengths

    • improving access to services

  • the negative impacts of receiving a diagnosis, such as stigma and labelling

  • a greater tendency for impulsive behaviour

  • the importance of environmental modifications to reduce the impact of ADHD symptoms

  • education issues (for example, reasonable adjustments at school and college)

  • employment issues (for example, impact on career choices and rights to reasonable adjustments in the workplace)

  • social relationship issues

  • the challenges of managing ADHD when a person has coexisting neurodevelopmental or mental health conditions

  • the increased risk of substance misuse and self-medication

  • the possible effect on driving (for example, ADHD symptoms may impair a person's driving and ADHD medication may improve this; people with ADHD must declare their diagnosis to the DVLA if their ADHD symptoms or medication affect their ability to drive safely).

    This structured discussion should inform the shared treatment plan. [2018]

1.4.4 Inform people receiving a diagnosis of ADHD (and their families or carers as appropriate) about sources of information, including:

  • local and national support groups and voluntary organisations

  • websites

  • support for education and employment.

    People who have had an assessment but whose symptoms and impairment fall short of a diagnosis of ADHD may benefit from similar information. [2018]

1.4.5 Provide information to people with ADHD (and their families and carers as appropriate) in a form that:

  • takes into account their developmental level, cognitive style, emotional maturity and cognitive capacity, including any learning disabilities, sight or hearing problems, delays in language development or social communication difficulties

  • takes into account any coexisting neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions

  • is tailored to their individual needs and circumstances, including age, gender, educational level and life stage. [2018]

Supporting families and carers

1.4.6 Ask families or carers of people with ADHD how the ADHD affects themselves and other family members, and discuss any concerns they have. [2018]

1.4.7 Encourage family members or carers of people with ADHD to seek an assessment of their personal, social and mental health needs, and to join self-help and support groups if appropriate. [2018]

1.4.8 Think about the needs of a parent with ADHD who also has a child with ADHD, including whether they need extra support with organisational strategies (for example, with adherence to treatment, daily school routines). [2018]

1.4.9 Offer advice to parents and carers of children and young people with ADHD about the importance of:

  • positive parent– and carer–child contact

  • clear and appropriate rules about behaviour and consistent management

  • structure in the child or young person's day. [2018]

1.4.10 Offer advice to families and carers of adults with ADHD about:

  • how ADHD may affect relationships

  • how ADHD may affect the person's functioning

  • the importance of structure in daily activities. [2018]

1.4.11 Explain to parents and carers that any recommendation of parent-training/education does not imply bad parenting, and that the aim is to optimise parenting skills to meet the above-average parenting needs of children and young people with ADHD. [2018]

Involving schools, colleges and universities

1.4.12 When ADHD is diagnosed, when symptoms change, and when there is transition between schools or from school to college or college to university, obtain consent and then contact the school, college or university to explain:

  • the validity of a diagnosis of ADHD and how symptoms are likely to affect school, college or university life

  • other coexisting conditions (for example, learning disabilities) are distinct from ADHD and may need different adjustments

  • the treatment plan and identified special educational needs, including advice for reasonable adjustments and environmental modifications within the educational placement

  • the value of feedback from schools, colleges and universities to people with ADHD and their healthcare professionals. [2018]

Involving other healthcare professionals

1.4.13 When a person with ADHD has a coexisting condition, contact the relevant healthcare professional, with consent, to explain:

  • the validity, scope and implications of a diagnosis of ADHD

  • how ADHD symptoms are likely to affect the person's behaviour (for example, organisation, time management, motivation) and adherence to specific treatments

  • the treatment plan and the value of feedback from healthcare professionals. [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on information and support and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

1.5 Managing ADHD

Planning treatment

1.5.1 Healthcare providers should ensure continuity of care for people with ADHD. [2018]

1.5.2 Ensure that people with ADHD have a comprehensive, holistic shared treatment plan that addresses psychological, behavioural and occupational or educational needs. Take into account:

  • the severity of ADHD symptoms and impairment, and how these affect or may affect everyday life (including sleep)

  • their goals

  • their resilience and protective factors

  • the relative impact of other neurodevelopmental or mental health conditions. [2018]

1.5.3 Regularly discuss with people with ADHD, and their family members or carers, how they want to be involved in treatment planning and decisions; such discussions should take place at intervals to take account of changes in circumstances (for example, the transition from children's to adult services) and developmental level, and should not happen only once. [2018]

1.5.4 Before starting any treatment for ADHD, discuss the following with the person, and their family or carers as appropriate, encouraging children and young people to give their own account of how they feel:

  • the benefits and harms of non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatments (for example, the efficacy of medication compared with no treatment or non-pharmacological treatments, potential adverse effects and non-response rates)

  • the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including exercise

  • their preferences and concerns (it is important to understand that a person's decision to start, change or stop treatment may be influenced by media coverage, teachers, family members, friends and differing opinion on the validity of a diagnosis of ADHD)

  • how other mental health or neurodevelopmental conditions might affect treatment choices

  • the importance of adherence to treatment and any factors that may affect this (for example, it may be difficult to take medication at school or work, or to remember appointments).

    Record the person's preferences and concerns in their treatment plan. [2018]

1.5.5 Ask young people and adults with ADHD if they wish a parent, partner, close friend or carer to join discussions on treatment and adherence. [2018]

1.5.6 Reassure people with ADHD, and their families or carers as appropriate, that they can revisit decisions about treatments. [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on managing ADHD – planning treatment, and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

Children under 5 years

These recommendations are for healthcare professionals with training and expertise in diagnosing and managing ADHD. See recommendation 1.4.3 for details of ADHD-focused information.

1.5.7 Offer an ADHD-focused group parent-training programme to parents or carers of children under 5 years with ADHD as first-line treatment. See recommendations 1.5.1 to 1.5.10 in NICE's guideline on antisocial behaviour and conduct disorders in children and young people[2]. [2018]

1.5.8 If after an ADHD-focused group parent-training programme, ADHD symptoms across settings are still causing a significant impairment in a child under 5 years after environmental modifications have been implemented and reviewed, obtain advice from a specialist ADHD service with expertise in managing ADHD in young children (ideally a tertiary service). [2018]

1.5.9 Do not offer medication for ADHD for any child under 5 years without a second specialist opinion from an ADHD service with expertise in managing ADHD in young children (ideally a tertiary service). [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on managing ADHD – children under 5 years, and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

Children aged 5 years[3] and over and young people

These recommendations are for healthcare professionals with training and expertise in diagnosing and managing ADHD.

1.5.10 Give information about ADHD (see recommendation 1.4.3) and offer additional support to parents and carers of all children aged 5 years and over and young people with ADHD. The support should be ADHD focused, can be group based and as few as 1 or 2 sessions. It should include:

  • education and information on the causes and impact of ADHD

  • advice on parenting strategies

  • with consent, liaison with school, college or university (see recommendation 1.4.12)

  • both parents and carers if feasible. [2018]

1.5.11 If a child aged 5 years or over or young person has ADHD and symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder, offer parents and carers a parent-training programme in line with recommendations 1.5.1 to 1.5.10 in NICE's guideline on antisocial behaviour and conduct disorders in children and young people, as well as group-based ADHD-focused support. [2018]

1.5.12 Consider individual parent-training programmes for parents and carers of children and young people with ADHD and symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder when:

  • there are particular difficulties for families in attending group sessions (for example, because of disability, needs related to diversity such as language differences, learning disability [intellectual disability], parental ill-health, problems with transport, or where other factors suggest poor prospects for therapeutic engagement)

  • a family's needs are too complex to be met by group-based parent-training programmes. [2018]

1.5.13 Offer medication for children aged 5 years and over and young people only if:

  • their ADHD symptoms are still causing a persistent significant impairment in at least one domain after environmental modifications have been implemented and reviewed

  • they and their parents and carers have discussed information about ADHD (see recommendation 1.5.4)

  • a baseline assessment has been carried out (see recommendation 1.7.4).

    See the recommendations on medication. [2018]

1.5.14 Consider a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for young people with ADHD who have benefited from medication but whose symptoms are still causing a significant impairment in at least one domain, addressing the following areas:

  • social skills with peers

  • problem-solving

  • self-control

  • active listening skills

  • dealing with and expressing feelings. [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on managing ADHD – children aged 5 years and over and young people, and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

Adults

These recommendations are for healthcare professionals with training and expertise in diagnosing and managing ADHD. See recommendation 1.4.3 for details of ADHD-focused information.

1.5.15 Offer medication to adults with ADHD if their ADHD symptoms are still causing a significant impairment in at least one domain after environmental modifications have been implemented and reviewed. See the recommendations on medication choice. [2018]

1.5.16 Consider non-pharmacological treatment for adults with ADHD who have:

  • made an informed choice not to have medication

  • difficulty adhering to medication

  • found medication to be ineffective or cannot tolerate it. [2018]

1.5.17 Consider non-pharmacological treatment in combination with medication for adults with ADHD who have benefited from medication but whose symptoms are still causing a significant impairment in at least one domain. [2018]

1.5.18 When non-pharmacological treatment is indicated for adults with ADHD, offer the following as a minimum:

  • a structured supportive psychological intervention focused on ADHD

  • regular follow‑up either in person or by phone.

    Treatment may involve elements of or a full course of CBT. [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on managing ADHD – adults, and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

1.6 Dietary advice

1.6.1 Healthcare professionals should stress the value of a balanced diet, good nutrition and regular exercise for children, young people and adults with ADHD. [2008]

1.6.2 Do not advise elimination of artificial colouring and additives from the diet as a generally applicable treatment for children and young people with ADHD. [2016]

1.6.3 Ask about foods or drinks that appear to influence hyperactive behaviour as part of the clinical assessment of ADHD in children and young people, and:

  • if there is a clear link, advise parents or carers to keep a diary of food and drinks taken and ADHD behaviour

  • if the diary supports a relationship between specific foods and drinks and behaviour, offer referral to a dietitian

  • ensure that further management (for example, specific dietary elimination) is jointly undertaken by the dietitian, mental health specialist or paediatrician, and the parent or carer and child or young person. [2016]

1.6.4 Do not advise or offer dietary fatty acid supplementation for treating ADHD in children and young people. [2016]

1.6.5 Advise the family members or carers of children with ADHD that there is no evidence about the long-term effectiveness or potential harms of a 'few food' diet for children with ADHD, and only limited evidence of short-term benefits. [2016]

1.7 Medication

These recommendations, with the exception of 1.7.29, are for healthcare professionals with training and expertise in diagnosing and managing ADHD.

1.7.1 Use this guideline with NICE's guideline on medicines optimisation: the safe and effective use of medicines to enable the best possible outcomes. [2018]

1.7.2 All medication for ADHD should only be initiated by a healthcare professional with training and expertise in diagnosing and managing ADHD. [2018]

1.7.3 Healthcare professionals initiating medication for ADHD should:

  • be familiar with the pharmacokinetic profiles of all the short- and long-acting preparations available for ADHD

  • ensure that treatment is tailored effectively to the individual needs of the child, young person or adult

  • take account of variations in bioavailability or pharmacokinetic profiles of different preparations to avoid reduced effect or excessive adverse effects. [2018]

Baseline assessment

1.7.4 Before starting medication for ADHD, people with ADHD should have a full assessment, which should include:

  • a review to confirm they continue to meet the criteria for ADHD and need treatment

  • a review of mental health and social circumstances, including:

    • presence of coexisting mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions

    • current educational or employment circumstances

    • risk assessment for substance misuse and drug diversion

    • care needs

  • a review of physical health, including:

    • a medical history, taking into account conditions that may be contraindications for specific medicines

    • current medication

    • height and weight (measured and recorded against the normal range for age, height and sex)

    • baseline pulse and blood pressure (measured with an appropriately sized cuff and compared with the normal range for age)

    • a cardiovascular assessment

    • an electrocardiogram (ECG) if the treatment may affect the QT interval. [2018]

1.7.5 Refer for a cardiology opinion before starting medication for ADHD if any of the following apply:

  • history of congenital heart disease or previous cardiac surgery

  • history of sudden death in a first-degree relative under 40 years suggesting a cardiac disease

  • shortness of breath on exertion compared with peers

  • fainting on exertion or in response to fright or noise

  • palpitations that are rapid, regular and start and stop suddenly (fleeting occasional bumps are usually ectopic and do not need investigation)

  • chest pain suggesting cardiac origin

  • signs of heart failure

  • a murmur heard on cardiac examination

  • blood pressure that is classified as hypertensive for adults (see NICE's guideline on hypertension in adults). [2018]

1.7.6 Refer to a paediatric hypertension specialist before starting medication for ADHD if blood pressure is consistently above the 95th centile for age and height for children and young people. [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on medication – baseline assessment, and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

Medication choice – children aged 5 years and over and young people

Recommendations 1.7.7 to 1.7.10 update NICE's technology appraisal guidance on methylphenidate, atomoxetine and dexamfetamine for ADHD in children and adolescents (TA98).

1.7.7 Offer methylphenidate (either short or long acting) as the first line pharmacological treatment for children aged 5 years[4] and over and young people with ADHD. [2018]

1.7.8 Consider switching to lisdexamfetamine for children aged 5 years[5] and over and young people who have had a 6‑week trial of methylphenidate at an adequate dose and not derived enough benefit in terms of reduced ADHD symptoms and associated impairment. [2018]

1.7.9 Consider dexamfetamine[6] for children aged 5 years and over and young people whose ADHD symptoms are responding to lisdexamfetamine but who cannot tolerate the longer effect profile. [2018]

1.7.10 Offer atomoxetine or guanfacine to children aged 5 years[7] and over and young people if:

  • they cannot tolerate methylphenidate or lisdexamfetamine or

  • their symptoms have not responded to separate 6‑week trials of lisdexamfetamine and methylphenidate, having considered alternative preparations and adequate doses. [2018]

Medication choice – adults

1.7.11 Offer lisdexamfetamine[8] or methylphenidate[9] as first-line pharmacological treatment for adults with ADHD. [2018]

1.7.12 Consider switching to lisdexamfetamine for adults who have had a 6‑week trial of methylphenidate at an adequate dose but have not derived enough benefit in terms of reduced ADHD symptoms and associated impairment. [2018]

1.7.13 Consider switching to methylphenidate for adults who have had a 6‑week trial of lisdexamfetamine at an adequate dose but have not derived enough benefit in terms of reduced ADHD symptoms and associated impairment. [2018]

1.7.14 Consider dexamfetamine[10] for adults whose ADHD symptoms are responding to lisdexamfetamine but who cannot tolerate the longer effect profile. [2018]

1.7.15 Offer atomoxetine[11] to adults if:

  • they cannot tolerate lisdexamfetamine or methylphenidate or

  • their symptoms have not responded to separate 6‑week trials of lisdexamfetamine and methylphenidate, having considered alternative preparations and adequate doses. [2018]

Further medication choices

1.7.16 Obtain a second opinion or refer to a tertiary service if ADHD symptoms in a child aged 5 years or over, a young person or adult are unresponsive to one or more stimulants and one non-stimulant. [2018]

1.7.17 Do not offer any of the following medication for ADHD without advice from a tertiary ADHD service:

  • guanfacine[12] for adults

  • clonidine[13] for children with ADHD and sleep disturbance, rages or tics

  • atypical antipsychotics in addition to stimulants for people with ADHD and coexisting pervasive aggression, rages or irritability

  • medication not included in recommendations 1.7.7 to 1.7.15. [2018]

Medication choice – people with coexisting conditions

1.7.18 Offer the same medication choices to people with ADHD and anxiety disorder, tic disorder or autism spectrum disorder as other people with ADHD. [2018]

1.7.19 For children aged 5 years and over, young people and adults with ADHD experiencing an acute psychotic or manic episode:

  • stop any medication for ADHD

  • consider restarting or starting new ADHD medication after the episode has resolved, taking into account the individual circumstances, risks and benefits of the ADHD medication. [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on medication – choice, and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

Considerations when prescribing ADHD medication

1.7.20 When prescribing stimulants for ADHD, think about modified-release once-daily preparations for the following reasons:

  • convenience

  • improving adherence

  • reducing stigma (because there is no need to take medication at school or in the workplace)

  • reducing problems of storing and administering controlled drugs at school

  • the risk of stimulant misuse and diversion with immediate-release preparations

  • their pharmacokinetic profiles.

    Immediate-release preparations may be suitable if more flexible dosing regimens are needed, or during initial titration to determine correct dosing levels. [2018]

1.7.21 When prescribing stimulants for ADHD, be aware that effect size, duration of effect and adverse effects vary from person to person. [2018]

1.7.22 Think about using immediate- and modified-release preparations of stimulants to optimise effect (for example, a modified-release preparation of methylphenidate in the morning and an immediate-release preparation of methylphenidate at another time of the day to extend the duration of effect). [2018]

1.7.23 Be cautious about prescribing stimulants for ADHD if there is a risk of diversion for cognitive enhancement or appetite suppression. [2018]

1.7.24 Do not offer immediate-release stimulants or modified-release stimulants that can be easily injected or insufflated if there is a risk of stimulant misuse or diversion. [2018]

1.7.25 Prescribers should be familiar with the requirements of controlled drug legislation governing the prescription and supply of stimulants. See NICE's guideline on controlled drugs. [2018]

Dose titration

1.7.26 During the titration phase, ADHD symptoms, impairment and adverse effects should be recorded at baseline and at each dose change on standard scales by parents and teachers, and progress reviewed regularly (for example, by weekly telephone contact) with a specialist. [2018]

1.7.27 Titrate the dose against symptoms and adverse effects in line with the BNF or BNF for Children until dose optimisation is achieved, that is, reduced symptoms, positive behaviour change, improvements in education, employment and relationships, with tolerable adverse effects. [2018]

1.7.28 Ensure that dose titration is slower and monitoring more frequent if any of the following are present in people with ADHD:

  • neurodevelopmental disorders (for example, autism spectrum disorder, tic disorders, learning disability [intellectual disability])

  • mental health conditions (for example, anxiety disorders [including obsessive–compulsive disorder], schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, depression, personality disorder, eating disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance misuse)

  • physical health conditions (for example, cardiac disease, epilepsy or acquired brain injury). [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on medication – considerations when prescribing and dose titration, and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

Shared care for medication

1.7.29 After titration and dose stabilisation, prescribing and monitoring of ADHD medication should be carried out under Shared Care Protocol arrangements with primary care. [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on medication – care arrangements, and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

1.8 Maintenance and monitoring

1.8.1 Monitor effectiveness of medication for ADHD and adverse effects, and document in the person's notes. [2018]

1.8.2 Encourage people taking medication for ADHD to monitor and record their adverse effects, for example, by using an adverse effect checklist. [2018]

1.8.3 Consider using standard symptom and adverse effect rating scales for clinical assessment and throughout the course of treatment for people with ADHD. [2018]

1.8.4 Ensure that children, young people and adults receiving treatment for ADHD have review and follow‑up according to the severity of their condition, regardless of whether or not they are taking medication. [2018]

Height and weight

1.8.5 For people taking medication for ADHD:

  • measure height every 6 months in children and young people

  • measure weight every 3 months in children 10 years and under

  • measure weight at 3 and 6 months after starting treatment in children over 10 years and young people, and every 6 months thereafter, or more often if concerns arise

  • measure weight every 6 months in adults

  • plot height and weight of children and young people on a growth chart and ensure review by the healthcare professional responsible for treatment. [2018]

1.8.6 If weight loss is a clinical concern, consider the following strategies:

  • taking medication either with or after food, rather than before meals

  • taking additional meals or snacks early in the morning or late in the evening when stimulant effects have worn off

  • obtaining dietary advice

  • consuming high-calorie foods of good nutritional value

  • taking a planned break from treatment

  • changing medication. [2018]

1.8.7 If a child or young person's height over time is significantly affected by medication (that is, they have not met the height expected for their age), consider a planned break in treatment over school holidays to allow 'catch‑up' growth. [2018]

1.8.8 Consider monitoring BMI of adults with ADHD if there has been weight change as a result of their treatment, and changing the medication if weight change persists. [2018]

Cardiovascular

1.8.9 Monitor heart rate and blood pressure and compare with the normal range for age before and after each dose change and every 6 months. [2018]

1.8.10 Do not offer routine blood tests (including liver function tests) or ECGs to people taking medication for ADHD unless there is a clinical indication. [2018]

1.8.11 If a person taking ADHD medication has sustained resting tachycardia (more than 120 beats per minute), arrhythmia or systolic blood pressure greater than the 95th percentile (or a clinically significant increase) measured on 2 occasions, reduce their dose and refer them to a paediatric hypertension specialist or adult physician. [2018]

1.8.12 If a person taking guanfacine has sustained orthostatic hypotension or fainting episodes, reduce their dose or switch to another ADHD medication. [2018]

Tics

1.8.13 If a person taking stimulants develops tics, think about whether:

  • the tics are related to the stimulant (tics naturally wax and wane) and

  • the impairment associated with the tics outweighs the benefits of ADHD treatment. [2018]

1.8.14 If tics are stimulant related, reduce the stimulant dose, or consider changing to guanfacine (in children aged 5 years and over and young people only), atomoxetine[11], clonidine[13], [14] or stopping medication. [2018]

Sexual dysfunction

1.8.15 Monitor young people and adults with ADHD for sexual dysfunction (that is, erectile and ejaculatory dysfunction) as potential adverse effects of atomoxetine. [2018]

Seizures

1.8.16 If a person with ADHD develops new seizures or a worsening of existing seizures, review their ADHD medication and stop any medication that might be contributing to the seizures. After investigation, cautiously reintroduce ADHD medication if it is unlikely to be the cause of the seizures. [2018]

Sleep

1.8.17 Monitor changes in sleep pattern (for example, with a sleep diary) and adjust medication accordingly. [2018]

Worsening behaviour

1.8.18 Monitor the behavioural response to medication, and if behaviour worsens adjust medication and review the diagnosis. [2018]

Stimulant diversion

1.8.19 Healthcare professionals and parents or carers should monitor changes in the potential for stimulant misuse and diversion, which may come with changes in circumstances and age. [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on medication – monitoring adverse effects, and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

1.9 Adherence to treatment

1.9.1 Use this guideline with NICE's guideline on medicines adherence to improve the care for adults with ADHD. The principles also apply to children and young people. [2018]

1.9.2 Be aware that the symptoms of ADHD may lead to people having difficulty adhering to treatment plans (for example, remembering to order and collect medication). [2018]

1.9.3 Ensure that people are fully informed of the balance of risks and benefits of any treatment for ADHD and check that problems with adherence are not due to misconceptions (for example, tell people that medication does not change personality). [2018]

1.9.4 Encourage the person with ADHD to use the following strategies to support adherence to treatment:

  • being responsible for their own health, including taking their medication as needed

  • following clear instructions about how to take the medication in picture or written format, which may include information on dose, duration, adverse effects, dosage schedule (the instructions should stay with the medication, for example, a sticker on the side of the packet)

  • using visual reminders to take medication regularly (for example, apps, alarms, clocks, pill dispensers, or notes on calendars or fridges)

  • taking medication as part of their daily routine (for example, before meals or after brushing teeth)

  • attending peer support groups (for both the person with ADHD and for the families and carers). [2018]

1.9.5 Encourage parents and carers to oversee ADHD medication for children and young people. [2018]

Supporting adherence to non-pharmacological treatments

1.9.6 Support adherence to non-pharmacological treatments (for example, CBT) by discussing the following:

  • the balance of risks and benefits (for example, how the treatment can have a positive effect on ADHD symptoms)

  • the potential barriers to continuing treatment, including:

    • not being sure if it is making any difference

    • the time and organisational skills needed to commit to the treatment

    • the time that might be needed outside of the sessions (for example, to complete homework)

  • strategies to deal with any identified barriers (for example, scheduling sessions to minimise inconvenience or seeking courses with child care provision)

  • a possible effect of treatment being increased self-awareness, and the challenging impact this may have on the person and the people around them

  • the importance of long-term adherence beyond the duration of any initial programme (for example, by attending follow‑up/refresher support to sustain learned strategies). [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on adherence to treatment and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

1.10 Review of medication and discontinuation

1.10.1 A healthcare professional with training and expertise in managing ADHD should review ADHD medication at least once a year and discuss with the person with ADHD (and their families and carers as appropriate) whether medication should be continued. The review should include a comprehensive assessment of the:

  • preference of the child, young person or adult with ADHD (and their family or carers as appropriate)

  • benefits, including how well the current treatment is working throughout the day

  • adverse effects

  • clinical need and whether medication has been optimised

  • impact on education and employment

  • effects of missed doses, planned dose reductions and periods of no treatment

  • effect of medication on existing or new mental health, physical health or neurodevelopmental conditions

  • need for support and type of support (for example, psychological, educational, social) if medication has been optimised but ADHD symptoms continue to cause a significant impairment. [2018]

1.10.2 Encourage people with ADHD to discuss any preferences to stop or change medication and to be involved in any decisions about stopping treatments. [2018]

1.10.3 Consider trial periods of stopping medication or reducing the dose when assessment of the overall balance of benefits and harms suggests this may be appropriate. If the decision is made to continue medication, the reasons for this should be documented. [2018]

To find out why the committee made the 2018 recommendations on review of medication and discontinuation, and how they might affect practice, see rationale and impact.

Terms used in this guideline

Domains

Domains refer to areas of function, for example, interpersonal relationships, education and occupational attainment, and risk awareness.

Environmental modifications

Environmental modifications are changes that are made to the physical environment in order to minimise the impact of a person's ADHD on their day-to-day life. Appropriate environmental modifications will be specific to the circumstances of each person with ADHD and should be determined from an assessment of their needs. Examples may include changes to seating arrangements, changes to lighting and noise, reducing distractions (for example, using headphones), optimising work or education to have shorter periods of focus with movement breaks (including the use of 'I need a break' cards), reinforcing verbal requests with written instructions and, for children, the appropriate use of teaching assistants at school.

Reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments is a term that refers to the legal obligations of employers and higher education providers to make sure that workers or students with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions are not substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs or during their education.

Settings

Settings refer to the physical location, for example, home, nursery, friends or family homes.

Shared treatment plan

A written treatment plan shared between healthcare professional and the person with ADHD; for children, this may be shared more widely (for example, with families, schools or social care, if relevant and agreed).



[1] The ICD-10 exclusion on the basis of a pervasive developmental disorder being present, or the time of onset being uncertain, is not recommended.

[2] It should be noted that this does not imply that all children under 5 years with ADHD have antisocial behaviour or a conduct disorder, but that the same general principles of care apply.

[3] At the time of publication (March 2018), medicines used for the treatment of ADHD did not have a UK marketing authorisation for use in children aged 5 years and under for this indication. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information.

[4] At the time of publication (March 2018), methylphenidate did not have a UK marketing authorisation for this indication in children aged 5 years or under. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information.

[5] At the time of publication (March 2018), lisdexamfetamine did not have a UK marketing authorisation for this indication in children aged 5 years. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information.

[6] At the time of publication (March 2018), dexamfetamine was only licensed for the treatment of ADHD in children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 years when response to previous methylphenidate treatment is considered clinically inadequate. Dexamfetamine is not licensed for the treatment of ADHD in children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 years who have responded to, but are intolerant to lisdexamfetamine. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information.

[7] At the time of publication (March 2018), atomoxetine or guanfacine did not have a UK marketing authorisation for this indication in children aged 5 years. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information.

[8] At the time of publication (March 2018), lisdexamfetamine was licensed for use in adults with symptoms of ADHD that pre-existed in childhood. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information.

[9] At the time of publication (March 2018), not all preparations of methylphenidate had a UK marketing authorisation for treating symptoms of ADHD in adults. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information.

[10] At the time of publication (March 2018), dexamfetamine did not have a UK marketing authorisation for this indication in adults. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information.

[11] At the time of publication (March 2018), atomoxetine was licensed for use in adults with symptoms of ADHD that pre-existed in childhood. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information.

[12] At the time of publication (March 2018), guanfacine did not have a UK marketing authorisation for this indication. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information.

[13] At the time of publication (March 2018), clonidine did not have a UK marketing authorisation for this indication. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Prescribing guidance: prescribing unlicensed medicines for further information.

[14] Clonidine should only be considered for people under 18 years after advice from a tertiary ADHD service.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)