URI, Lehigh partner for first-ever drug effectiveness study on college students with ADHD

KINGSTON, R.I.–September 23, 2009–When they think of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, most people think of squirming kids unable to sit still. ADHD, as it is more generally known, is one of the most common disorders of childhood. But symptoms of ADHD often linger into adulthood.

Approximately 2 to 4 percent of college students report significant symptoms of ADHD such as difficulty with attention, impulse control, and restlessness.

Although there is a great deal of information about childhood and adult ADHD and treatments, there’s scarce information about the effectiveness of medication on college students with ADHD.

That is all about to change. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island and Lehigh University are about to launch a study to test the effectiveness of the stimulant medication, Vyvanse™, on college students with ADHD. It is the first such study for this population.

Lisa Weyandt, an associate professor of psychology at URI and one of the nation’s leading researchers on ADHD in college students, was awarded a grant from Shire Development Inc. to support the study. Shire, the manufacturer of Vyvanse™, is a global specialty biopharmaceuticals company that focuses on attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, human genetic therapies, and gastrointestinal diseases.

As principal investigator on the grant, Weyandt has subcontracted the study with her co-investigator ADHD expert George DuPaul, professor of school psychology who chairs the Department of Education and Human Services at Lehigh. DuPaul’s research interests include the assessment and treatment of college students with significant ADHD symptoms. DuPaul earned his graduate degrees from URI.

“College students with ADHD are at a greater risk for academic and psychological difficulties. They are also in a unique developmental context at this stage of their lives, when they are expected to live and act independently,” says DuPaul.

“Many colleges and universities offer resources to help students with ADHD from a functional standpoint. However, we are the first to look at the impact of medication to treat the symptoms of ADHD.”

The study will begin this fall. Twenty-five students from URI and Lehigh University will be recruited for the five-week study through disability support services offices and advertisements.

Each student will be evaluated during a baseline level (no meds, no placebo), a placebo condition, and during three different levels of medication. The study, designed as a placebo controlled double blind, ensures that neither the student nor the data collector know the level of the drug, if any, the student is taking. Students will receive a $300 honorarium if they complete the study.

The grant will fund the salaries of two graduate students at each institution.

“The study will measure changes in attention and executive functions and social/psychological functioning, as well as perceived changes among the students,” said Weyandt. “Feedback from the students’ professors will also be sought.”

Study results will be announced in fall of 2010. For more information, contact Weyandt, lisaweyandt@mail.uri.edu or DuPaul, gjd3@lehigh.edu.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.