December 21, 2006

Schizophrenia Risk Rises When Child Has ADHD Plus Relative With Disorder

This past summer we met a pediatric schizophrenia researcher who mentioned that in his experience (and in at least some specific populations) childhood ADHD was a reasonably strong risk factor for a person developing schizophrenia later in life. Lately, while doing searches as we regularly do to find news for this site and have come up with a number of related, interesting articles.

In a news item that came out a few years ago it was noted in Psychiatric News that

"Having trouble paying attention is no small problem for youngsters diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But for those who have ADHD plus a parent or sibling with schizophrenia, the combination may signal something more troubling — an especially high risk of developing schizophrenia themselves.

So suggests a study conducted by Matcheri Keshavan, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and colleagues. Their findings are published in the January 2003 Schizophrenia Research.

It is known, of course, that difficulty paying attention is often a problem for relatives of persons with schizophrenia and a warning that those relatives might develop schizophrenia themselves."

Here at - we frequently hear from parents of children who were diagnosed with ADHD prior to schizophrenia, and also of parents of children with schizophrenia who have been diagnosed with ADHD or who show the classic signs of ADHD.

One of the key links here seems to be increased levels of dopamine with both ADHD and schizophrenia - though, as this story points out - dopamine is not the only issue in ADHD (High Dopamine Levels Alone Do Not Cause ADHD).

Another article that seems interesting is the tie between smoking by mothers during pregnancy - and significantly increased risk of ADHD in children. Perhaps this is the link that interconnects these brain disorders. In August it was reported that

"Women who smoke during pregnancy may be twice as likely to give birth to a child with behavioral problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

A new study shows that smoking during pregnancy doubled the risk of having a child with ADHD or other behavioral disorders that involve hyperactivity, inattention, and acting impulsively, known as hyperkinetic disorders.

Experts have long recommended that women stop smoking during pregnancy in order to reduce the risk of birth defects and other problems. But this study suggests that exposure to nicotine in the womb may also affect the development of the baby's brain and increase the risk of behavioral problems like ADHD. "

In a related news report it stated:

"In previous research on tobacco, "compelling and consistent" studies have found children exposed to prenatal tobacco are at a two-fold or higher risk for ADHD, said Lanphear. The Environmental Health Perspectives study went a step further, looking at a specific population of kids with diagnosed ADHD -- and allowing Lanphear to "say with confidence" that a link exists....

The mechanisms of how lead and tobacco damage a developing fetus or a child are not fully explained. But researchers believe the substances disturb dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with proper functioning of the central nervous system."

(Source: UPI)

There are no conclusions from any of these studies - but it certainly seems like a line of research that should be investigated more. Recent research on the epigenetics of mental illness explain some of these risk factors for mental illness.

Additional Reading:

Childcare, Genetics, Epigenetics and Schizophrenia


To follow is an article on prenatal exposure to dursban
and ADHD, cognitive, motor and developmental delays

Posted by: flooby at December 21, 2006 05:29 PM

Prescribing Ritalin (Amphetamine) for ADHD may be the cause of later Schizophrenia.

Posted by: Matt at December 22, 2006 04:53 AM

Matt makes a great point. My affected, younger daughter was very much planned for and wanted. No smoking, drugs, alcohol, or caffeine and ate all organic, healthy foods. Things stayed that way after birth. I took a leave of absence from work to be with her, breast fed... all that stuff. She didn't even watch TV. We had one dinky TV down in the basement which the family watched one show a week on as a family.

Anyway, she was so intelligent and articulate but had symptoms since possibly birth. But she started looking like she was having absence seizures but the EEGs were negative. Then she was diagnosed with ADHD - the attention deficit part - not the hyperactive part - and was given Adderall... and that's when she ended up in the hospital and we were plunged into a living hell. And her "absence seizures prolonged to obvious brief episodes of catatonia.

The "ADHD" was NOT "ADHD" - it had been part of her illness, and after the illness was treated, there was no more "ADHD". Antiseizure medications which affect GABA receptors took away what looked like absence seizures but supposedly were catatonia.

I cannot "blame" the ADHD medication for my daughter's illness because she obviously had symptoms from birth, and I cannot know for sure if the same thing would not have happened without it. We always look for a "cause" when something horrible happens. But another child like mine (a relative) was put on ADHD medication also... it WASN'T ADHD after all... and SHE was hospitalized within DAYS of being put on it.

I would love to see a statistic that shows how many children with family members with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder that have symptoms of possibly having BP or sz themselves, get put on ADHD meds and end up hospitalized.

Posted by: Naomi at December 22, 2006 07:10 AM

Just think of this:

1). Meds for ADHD: Ritalin (methylphenidate, levodopa etc.).

Their effects on the brain: to increase the activity of dopamine.

2). Increasing brain activity of dopamine can cause hallucination. And hallucination is a primary symptom of schizophrenia.

3). Many antipsychotic meds that used for treating schizophrenia, decrease brain activity of dopamine.

Posted by: JD05 at December 22, 2006 03:15 PM

my son was diagnosed with adhd as a young child he was fine from 12 t 15 than he was diagnosed with schizophrenia i really wish they would find a cure

Posted by: becca at January 6, 2007 12:07 AM

Hello - I was first diagnosed with ADHD then Schizoaffective Bipolar Type. I took Adderall and it certainly influenced the occurrence of my delusional thoughts. As Naomi points out - I cannot say that without the medication I would have been fine but when I got off the medication the severity and even occurrence of delusional thoughts declined.

Posted by: Uncle Sam at January 7, 2007 09:22 AM

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