The effectiveness of methylphenidate in the management of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in people with intellectual disabilities: a systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Nick Tarrant
  • Meera Roy
  • Shoumitro Deb
  • Smita Odedra
  • Ashok Roy

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Specialty Registrar in Forensic Psychiatry, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, UK. Electronic address:
  • Consultant Psychiatrist, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, UK.
  • Imperial College London
  • Trials Co-ordinator, Birmingham Children's Hospital, UK.
  • Health Education West Midlands and honorary research fellow, Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.
  • Consultant Psychiatrist, Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, UK.


BACKGROUND: The effectiveness of psychostimulants, primarily methylphenidate (MPH), in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in the general population of typically growing children and adolescents is well established through many Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs).

AIMS AND METHODS: We carried out a systematic review of all the RCTs in people with intellectual disabilities (ID) that assessed effectiveness of MPH on the core ADHD symptoms.

OUTCOMES AND RESULTS: We included 15 papers from 13 studies that were all on children and adolescents with ID (315 participants were on MPH and placebo respectively), 12 of which used a cross over design, and one used a parallel design. On average around 40-50% responded to MPH in the ID group whereas around 70-80% response rate is reported among the non-ID children. Because of the heterogeneity of the outcome data it was not possible to carry out a meta-analysis. Significant adverse events included sleep difficulties and poor appetite along with weight loss and also irritability, social withdrawal and increased motor activities including tic.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLEMENTATION: On the basis of the poor quality evidence that is available, it seems that MPH may be effective in some but not all children and adolescents with ID and ADHD.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-232
Number of pages16
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Early online date25 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Intellectual disabilities, ADHD, Methylphenidate, Treatment, Child and adolescents