ADHD Medications May Also Help Treat Certain Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Noradrenergic drugs are used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Among other things, they help increase alertness and attention. Now, a new analysis finds they may be helpful in easing Alzheimer’s symptoms, as well.

An analysis recently published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry examined existing research on these drugs, finding that clinical trials on their effectiveness against Alzheimer’s are warranted due to “good evidence” that they may ease some aspects of the disease.


The paper notes that noradrenergic drugs target the neurotransmitter noradrenaline, or norepinephrine, which is released by a network of noradrenergic neurons that is needed for processes like attention, learning, readiness, and memory. This network is also disrupted by Alzheimer’s, which worsens symptoms, so researchers believe it may be helpful to utilize drugs that target this system to treat patients with the disease.

The paper reads, “This system offers a potential therapeutic target, although noradrenergic treatments are not currently used in clinical practice.”


Among the research the team analyzed were clinical trials published between 1980 and 2021 that involved this type of treatment and had focused on treating cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients with neurodegenerative disease. That included 19 trials with more than 1800 Alzheimer’s patients or those with mild cognitive impairment, with 13 deemed good or fair quality.

When they focused on cognitive symptoms in 10 of the trials, which included 1300 people, they found that there was a small but noticeable benefit of the treatments on overall cognition. They also looked at the impacts on the behavior and neuropsychiatric symptoms of 425 patients over eight trials. In these studies, apathy was found to improve significantly.

Therefore, the team wrote, “Repurposing of established noradrenergic drugs is most likely to offer effective treatment in Alzheimer’s disease for general cognition and apathy.”


They’d like to see more clinical trials to determine if these findings can be replicated, but they write that it’s important first to understand which patient subgroups should be studied and how these drugs could interact with existing treatments.

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