OBJECTIVE: Complementary and alternative treatments (CATs) for ADHD have proliferated over the past decade; however, their safety and efficacy remain uncertain. We completed a systematic review and meta-analyses across CAT domains.
METHODS: Systematic search and data extraction identified randomized controlled trials for pediatric ADHD (ages 3-19 years) that included probably blind ADHD symptom outcome measures. We evaluated basic (RCT of a CAT compared with sham/placebo, attention/active control, treatment as usual, and waitlist control), complementary (RCTs comparing an evidence-based treatment with a CAT and the same evidence-based treatment), and alternative (evidence-based treatment to CAT) efficacy. Random-effect meta-analyses were conducted when at least 3 blinded studies were identified for a specific CAT domain.
RESULTS: Eighty-seven of 2253 nonduplicate screened manuscripts met inclusion criteria. No study reported significantly greater adverse effects for CATs than controls; naturopathy reported fewer adverse effects than evidence-based treatments but did not demonstrate basic efficacy. In the systematic review of basic efficacy, evidence of effectiveness was mixed but replicated previous evidence for the possible efficacy of cognitive training, neurofeedback, and essential fatty acid supplementation for certain patients. With respect to alternative and complementary efficacy, no CAT outperformed or enhanced evidence-based treatments (stimulant medications and behavioral therapy) when replication was required. Individual meta-analyses indicated that cognitive training was the only CAT that demonstrated overall basic efficacy (SMD = 0.216; p = 0.032).
CONCLUSION: Clinicians may cautiously recommend (but monitor) cognitive training when evidence-based treatments are not feasible or effective for a patient. Additional studies are needed to further understand the potential of CAT domains. Copyright © 2023 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.
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