Dr. Lirio Covey (Global FWN100™ '13), professor of clinical psychology in Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry and former director of the Smoking Cessation Clinic at Columbia University Medical Center recently published new research on the relationship between ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and smoking cessation.
1. Smoking is twice as common among people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than in the general population, and fewer ADHD smokers succeed in quitting.
“An appealing short-term effect of nicotine is that it helps with the ability to focus. This is conceivably one reason why many people with ADHD smoke,” says Lirio Covey, PhD, professor of clinical psychology in Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Covey, former director of the Smoking Cessation Clinic at Columbia University Medical Center, currently investigates the effect of smoking on people with ADHD and the best techniques to help them quit.
“People with ADHD also think that smoking cigarettes calms them down,” she adds, “but lab studies have shown that smoking can aggravate hyperactivity.”
2. An ADHD drug, methylphenidate (Concerta), may help some ADHD smokers quit.
Whether methylphenidate can help depends on the type of ADHD symptoms patients experience, Dr. Covey says. Between 2005 and 2008, Dr. Covey and her research group tested the idea that treatment with methylphenidate, by reducing the symptoms of ADHD, would improve the success of a smoking cessation treatment (behavioral counseling paired with the nicotine patch).
“The study found that methylphenidate reduced ADHD symptoms, but it did not improve the overall quit rate,” she says.
But when Dr. Covey analyzed the results more closely, she found that certain groups seemed to benefit from methylphenidate. “Smokers with more severe ADHD symptoms did better with methylphenidate than smokers with less intense symptoms, and those who primarily had attention problems did better than those with hyperactivity problems. Another surprising finding that merits further study was that members of minority groups did better with methylphenidate compared to placebo.”