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Acute Transdermal Nicotine Improves Cognitive Deficits in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder

13 August 2016


Background: Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is described as a neurobiological syndrome affecting approximately 5% of children and adolescents as reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2008. Problems in school are often a key clinical finding for children with ADHD. Children with ADHD are associated with low academic grades and poor academic performances. Current pharmacological treatments, like pychostimulants, help to decrease core behavioral symptoms and increase academic productivity, but overall performance on standardized tests are often unaffected.Previous research has shown those with ADHD are two times more likely to smoke cigarettes and initiate cigarette smoking at an earlier age in comparison to those without ADHD. Nicotine has proven beneficial with improvement of symptoms, moods, and cognitive functioning in studies containing both smoking and non-smoking adults with ADHD. This review will look at the effects of acute transdermal nicotine on cognitive functioning in children, adolescents, and young adults with attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

Methods: An exhaustive search of available literature was performed using MEDLINE-Ovid, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. Keywords included: nicotine patch, transdermal nicotine, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, cognitive functioning, and symptom improvement. Using the GRADE criteria, all relevant articles were assessed for quality.

Results: A total of 11 articles were screened for relevance. After this review, 2 articles met inclusion criteria. One study showed improvements of learning problems associated with ADHD after a 7 day transdermal nicotine application. The second study revealed improvements in impulse control and other cognitive deficits after a 45-minute transdermal nicotine administration.

Conclusion: Based on the results and limitations of these studies further research is needed to determine the true efficacy and safety of using transdermal nicotine to treat ADHD, but the possibility of using nicotine in various treatment modalities or a nicotine agonist in the acute setting has potential to be a viable option in the future.


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