Psychostimulants for ADHD-like symptoms in individuals with autism spectrum disorders

Samuele Cortese, Pierre Castelnau, Carmen Morcillo, Sylvie Roux, Frédérique Bonnet-Brilhault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We conducted a comprehensive review of studies assessing the efficacy and tolerability of psychostimulants for ADHD-like symptoms in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (encompassing autism disorder, Asperger's syndrome and pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified). PubMed, Ovid, EMBASE, Web of Science, ERIC and CINHAL were searched through 3 January 2012. From a pool of 348 potentially relevant references, 12 citations (11 studies) were retained as pertinent. Four of the included studies had a randomized controlled design. Most of the studies assessed methylphenidate immediate release. Despite inter-study heterogeneity, taken together, the results of the selected reports suggest that psychostimulants may be effective for ADHD-like symptoms in autism spectrum disorder individuals. The most common adverse events reported in the included trials were appetite reduction, sleep-onset difficulties, irritability and emotional outbursts. We discuss future directions in the field, including the need for trials assessing more ecological outcomes and combined treatment strategies tailored to the specific individual features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-473
Number of pages13
JournalExpert Review of Neurotherapeutics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012



  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • autism
  • autism spectrum disorders
  • hyperactivity
  • inattention
  • methylphenidate
  • pervasive developmental disorders
  • pharmacological treatment
  • psychostimulants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology (medical)

Cite this

Cortese, S., Castelnau, P., Morcillo, C., Roux, S., & Bonnet-Brilhault, F. (2012). Psychostimulants for ADHD-like symptoms in individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 12(4), 461-473.