The need for alternative treatments for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder


  • Klaus W. Lange



Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, methylphenidate, alternative treatment, lifestyle, diet, nutrients, physical activity, sleep patterns, media use


In 2019, an application for the addition of methylphenidate for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Model List of Essential Medicines was rejected by the WHO Expert Committee due to uncertainties concerning the benefit-versus-harm profile of the drug. This decision highlights the many problems related to the use of methylphenidate in individuals with ADHD. Doubts regarding the effectiveness of commonly used ADHD therapies on clinically relevant outcome measures, the unproven long-term efficacy of treatment and concerns surrounding potentially serious adverse effects of medication have led to a search for alternative treatment options. Lifestyle factors, such as quality of diet, physical and sedentary activities, sleep patterns and electronic media use, may be precursors or consequences of ADHD. The identification of these health-related lifestyle risk factors would seem to be important in individuals with ADHD, since interventions in these areas may improve behavioural, cognitive and physical symptoms of the disorder. Current evidence suggests that symptoms of ADHD may be ameliorated by improved lifestyle choices. A greater emphasis, in both research and clinical practice, should therefore be placed on lifestyle factors associated with ADHD.