Intentional Discontinuation of Psychostimulants Used to Treat ADHD in Youth: A Review and Analysis

W. David Lohr*, Jonathon W. Wanta, Megan Baker, Eugene Grudnikoff, Wynne Morgan, Divya Chhabra, Terry Lee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objectives: This paper reviews the literature on intentional discontinuation of psychostimulants in ADHD to summarize what is known about clinical course of controlled discontinuation and guide practitioners who are considering stopping these medications for youth with ADHD. Methods: A systematic search was executed in Cochrane CENTRAL, EMBASE, Psychinfo, and MEDLINE databases to identify all articles that addressed the topic of deprescribing of psychotropic medications in children and adolescents. Keywords and search strings were developed using “PICO” framework, involving Population of interest (<18 y.o.), Intervention (“discontinuation,” “deprescribing,” and synonyms), Comparator (continuation of specific medications), and Outcomes. Ten reviewers conducted the initial screen via a single reviewer system. Articles that met a set of three inclusionary criteria were selected for full text review and identification as specific to discontinuation of stimulants in ADHD. Results: The literature review identified 35 articles specifically addressing intentional deprescribing, discontinuation, tapering, or withdrawal of stimulants for children and adolescents with ADHD. In addition to providing broad support for the efficacy of stimulants to treat ADHD and reduce negative outcomes, there is a distinct population of children and adolescents with ADHD who do not relapse or deteriorate when taken off medications for ADHD. The majority of articles addressed either the re-emergence of ADHD symptoms or side effects, both desired and adverse, following discontinuation of stimulants. While confirming the ability of stimulants to treat ADHD in youth, our results support periodic consideration of trials of stopping medications to determine continued need. Conclusions: This systematic review summarizes the literature on deprescribing stimulants for ADHD in children and adolescents. Further research is needed to determine the optimal duration of treatment, identify patients that may benefit from medication discontinuation, and inform evidence-based guidelines for discontinuation when appropriate. More research is needed to understand and define the subgroup of youth who may succeed with stimulant discontinuation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number642798
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - Apr 20 2021


  • ADHD
  • discontinuation
  • evidence
  • intentional
  • psychostimulants
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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