As youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) transition to adulthood, they must learn how to manage their ADHD treatment independently. This may be challenging because many of the skills necessary to adhere to treatment (e.g., organization, planning) are impaired in those with ADHD. Using electronic monitoring, we examine trajectories of adherence to medication in a cohort of college students with ADHD. Further, we examine the effect of transitioning to college and executive functioning on adherence.
Electronic monitors tracked adherence for 51 undergraduate students with ADHD across an academic semester. Multilevel modeling examined individual trajectories in monthly adherence and the role of transition status and self-reported executive functioning on these trajectories.
Overall, participants adhered to 53.53% of prescribed doses. Transition status predicted the linear slope in adherence (β = −8.95, standard error [SE] = 3.61, p < .05), with lower initial adherence among undergraduates transitioning to independence (34.17%) compared with post-transition undergraduates (67.63%; β = 33.46, SE = 8.00, p < .001). Adherence demonstrated a curvilinear change (β = −7.23, SE = 1.25, p < .001). It increased from the beginning of the semester to midterms before subsequently declining through the rest of the semester, including during final exams. Executive functioning did not predict adherence (β = −.10, SE = .02, p = .54).
Only half of all doses were taken as prescribed. Adolescents transitioning to independence demonstrated the lowest levels of adherence, suggesting that the transition to independence is a high-risk period for poor self-management of ADHD.