Study: People With ADHD May Have Higher Risk Of Getting Parkinson’s

Oct 26, 2018, 1:12 PM | Updated: Oct 29, 2018, 4:01 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Scientists at the University of Utah Health have found people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, may have an increased risk of getting Parkinson’s Disease.

In a new study, they found the risk is higher for patients prescribed stimulant medications, though it’s unclear exactly why.

ADHD is a brain disorder that causes changes in dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain.

Researchers found that ADHD patients are more than twice as likely to develop early on-set Parkinson’s disease, a progressive nervous system disorder made famous by Michael J. Fox and Muhammed Ali. The risk is six to eight times higher for ADHD patients who take stimulant medications like Ritalin or Adderall, according to the study.

“We always should be cautious,” said Glen Hanson, U of U Health professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and senior author on the paper. “You don’t ever like to give a child these medications if they don’t need it. But if this is a consideration now in the future, then we may need to be even more cautious.”

It’s unclear if it’s the nature of the brain with ADHD or the medication that causes the risk, Hanson said.

“If you are ADHD, your chance is about 3 to 4 out of a 1,000 (of getting Parkinson’s),” Hanson said. “If you are treated with Ritalin, your chance is about one out of 100.”

Makenna Perry, age 11, has high functioning ADHD. She and her parents take a holistic approach to treatment.

Makenna Perry, age 11, has high functioning ADHD. She and her parents take a holistic approach to treatment.

Karen Curtin, Ph.D., associate professor in Internal medicine at U of U Health, and first author of the paper, said the results are preliminary.

“The risk of early-onset Parkinson’s is still very low, She said. “I wouldn’t advocate for change in treatment.”

Still, the results are significant.

“If I had been diagnosed with ADHD, I would want to be concerned about any long-term effects and have a conversation with my physician, not just assume that medication is the best way to go,” she said.

Curtin’s previous research found that people who abused methamphetamine had two to three times the rate of Parkinson’s, when compared to people who didn’t use the drug.

For the new study, the team used the Utah Population Database, which contains vital and medical records of more than 11 million individuals who have lived in the state.

Curtin’s research has a personal touch. Her father died because of Parkinson’s disease, and it inspired her to dig deeper.

“It grabs you as a researcher when it affects your family profoundly,” she said. “If I could shed any light on what could possibly be risk factors for Parkinson’s, then I feel like I’ve been doing something worthwhile.”

At a private school in Riverton called Brain Zone, 11-year-old Makenna Perry and other students learn strategies for overcoming their ADHD challenges without medication.

Jaydra Hymer, the owner and director, has been working with children and adults with ADHD for over two decades.

She takes a holistic approach.

“Minimizing sugar, the junk foods, increasing sleep, making sure you get enough sleep,” she said. “Exercise and decreasing stress.”

Hymer also has ADHD.

“My biggest one is losing things,” she said. “If I have to go somewhere, rather than counting on myself to remember in the morning when things get crazy, I go put whatever I need to take with me out in the car the night before.”

Makenna has high-functioning ADHD.

“I like to act. I like sing. I like to do gymnastics,” she said. “I used to not complete the tasks that I was asked to complete.”

Makenna’s parents have found what works for her.

“Diet, sleep and supplements are the keys for her,” said her father, Tyler Perry. “If any one of those get out of balance, we see an emotional breakdown.”

Makenna is finding success.

Doctors said for kids with more severe forms of ADHD, the benefits of medication may be worthwhile, despite possible increased risk of such things as Parkinson’s disease.

The study was published last month in the publication Neuropsychopharmachology.

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Study: People With ADHD May Have Higher Risk Of Getting Parkinson’s