Does methylphenidate improve academic performance? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Anne Fleur Kortekaas-Rijlaarsdam, Marjolein Luman, Edmund Sonuga-Barke, Jaap Oosterlaan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Academic improvement is amongst the most common treatment targets when prescribing stimulants to children with ADHD. Previous reviews on stimulant-related academic improvements are inconclusive and focus on task engagement. Recent literature suggests outcome-domain-specific medication effects that are larger for productivity than for accuracy. The aims of this study are quantifying methylphenidate effects on academic productivity and accuracy for math, reading, spelling; exploring the mediating or moderating effects of symptom improvements, demographic-, design- and disorder-related variables. PubMed, EMBASE, ERIC and PsycINFO were searched for articles reporting methylphenidate effects on academic productivity and accuracy. Thirty-four studies met entry criteria. Methylphenidate improved math productivity (7.8% increase, p < .001); math accuracy (3.0% increase, p = .001); increased reading speed (SMD.47, p < .001) but not reading accuracy. None of the mediators or moderators tested affected methylphenidate efficacy. Academic improvements were small compared to symptom improvements; qualitative changes limited to math. Clinicians should take this discrepancy into account when prescribing medication for ADHD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-164
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date20 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2019

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