Background: The patient in this study experienced a childhood marked by conflicts within the family, physical abuse, frequent changes of school settings, truancy, and unspecified learning disabilities. After leaving school at age 17, she was chronically depressed, had anger attacks, lacked motivation, refused psychological assistance, and had problems finding work. At age 30, this culminated in an aggravated assault of a female in an urban public space, after which she was referred to the criminal courts. She was granted probation and hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation with follow-up, outpatient psychiatric treatment.
Aim: To present outcomes of longitudinal monitoring of methylphenidate effects on cognition and self-regulation during treatment of attention-deficit disorder with hyperactivity and substance use.
Methods: During more than a year of treatment, psychiatric interviews and norm-referenced assessments of processing-speed and cognitive overhead monitored changes in cognition and substance use.
Results: At baseline, processing-speed measures of reactive and active attention were within the average-normal range, whereas cognitive overhead/shift cost was in the atypically high range, suggestive of ADHD symptomatology. The patient engaged in daily excessive use of cannabis, amphetamines, and other illegal substances. At the end of treatment, cognitive speed was increased and cognitive overhead normalized. With reductions in ADHD symptomatology, the patient used small amounts of cannabis during weekends and showed improved self-regulation, and legal restrictions were discontinued.