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A randomized controlled trial of CBT therapy for adults with ADHD with and without medication

Margaret Weiss1*, Candice Murray2, Michael Wasdell3, Brian Greenfield4, Lauren Giles5 and Lily Hechtman4

Author Affiliations

1 University of British Columbia, Faculty of Medicine, 1488 Gordon Ave, West Vancouver, BC V7T 1R6, Canada

2 Provincial ADHD Program, BC Mental Health and Addictions Services, Box 178, 4500 Oak St., Vancouver, BC V6H 3N1, Canada

3 Bridepoint Health, 14 St. Matthews Road, Toronto, ON M4M 2B5, Canada

4 McGill University Faculty of Medicine, Montreal Children's Hospital, 2300 Tupper St, Montreal, QC H3H 1P3, Canada

5 University of British Columbia, Department of Psychiatry, 1488 Gordon Avenue, West Vancouver, BC V7T 1R6, Canada

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BMC Psychiatry 2012, 12:30  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-12-30

Published: 5 April 2012



Previous studies of psychological treatment in adults with ADHD have not controlled for medication status and include either medicated participants or mixed samples of medicated and unmedicated participants. The objective of this study is to examine whether use of medication improves outcome of therapy.


This was a secondary analysis comparing 23 participants randomized to CBT and Dextroamphetamine vs. 25 participants randomized to CBT and placebo. Both patients and investigators were blind to treatment assignment. Two co-primary outcomes were used: ADHD symptoms on the ADHD-RS-Inv completed by the investigator and improvement in functioning as reported by the patient on the Sheehan Disability Scale.


Both groups showed robust improvement in both symptoms and functioning, but the use of medication did not significantly improve outcome over and above use of CBT and placebo.


This study replicates previous work demonstrating that CBT is an effective treatment for ADHD in adults. Within the limits of this pilot, secondary analysis we were not able to demonstrate that medication significantly augments the outcome of CBT therapy for adults with ADHD. The study was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, Clinical Trials Registry #GSK707.

CBT; Adult; Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder; Psychotherapy