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ADHD Drug Shows Promise in Treating PTSD, TBI

November 16, 2015

A small pilot study suggests that methylphenidate may improve emotional and cognitive symptoms in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers reported their findings in Neuropsychopharmacology. 

Results from the 12-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial linked treatment with methylphenidate with statistically significant improvement on the Ruff Neurobehavioral Inventory—Postcomorbid Cognitive Scale, which assessed cognitive difficulties and was the study’s primary outcome. 

In addition, treatment with methylphenidate was associated with improvement in symptoms of concussion, as measured by then the Rivermead Post Concussive Symptom Questionnaire, and with improvement in PTSD symptoms, as measured by the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist. 

The trial involved 32 patients with TBI, PTSD, or both; participants were randomly assigned to either methylphenidate, galantamine, or placebo. Methylphenidate, a drug typically used for ADHD, seemed to improve symptoms of PTSD, depression, and concussion, while galantamine, a drug used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, improved episodic memory and did not improve symptoms of PTSD. 

According to the researchers, the treatment was well tolerated and the study results support the idea of conducting further investigations. 

“These results suggest the need for a larger randomized controlled trial to replicate and confirm these findings. Design considerations for such a trial should include the need for multiple sites to facilitate adequate recruitment and extension of the treatment and follow-up periods,” the study authors wrote. 

—Lauren LeBano 


1. McAllister TW, Zafonte R, Jain S, et al. Randomized placebo-controlled trial of methylphenidate or galantamine for persistent emotional and cognitive symptoms associated with PTSD and/or traumatic brain injury. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Sep 11;[Epub ahead of print].

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