The Utility of the CPT in the Diagnosis of ADHD in Individuals with Substance Abuse: A Systematic Review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Early identification of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in individuals with substance use disorders (SUD) is important because ADHD has an adverse effect on the development and course of SUD. Given the limited validity of self-report measures of ADHD in individuals with SUD, it is important to investigate the utility of the continuous performance test (CPT) in classifying ADHD in adults with SUD. Objective: This review aims to examine the quantitative similarities and differences in CPT performance of adults with ADHD, SUD, and their comorbidity to determine if a distinct neurocognitive profile exists for each. Method: A systematic review of CPT studies that included patients with the comorbidity of ADHD and SUD and a comparison group of one of the disorders alone was conducted. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were used. Results: Eight studies were identified with sample sizes ranging from n = 17 to n = 386. The comorbidity of ADHD and SUD was, mostly, not associated with higher rates of commission and omission errors than either disorder alone. However, the comorbidity of ADHD and SUD was more likely to be associated with increased deficits in response time variability compared with individuals with ADHD alone. Conclusions: This review highlights the shortage of large-scale CPT research involving patients with ADHD and SUD. The CPT might be sensitive to attentional deficits, but it lacks specificity for the classification of adult ADHD, SUD, or their comorbidity, and the CPT is thus not useful in discriminating comorbid ADHD and SUD from either disorder alone. Future CPT research should explore whether specific attentional deficits account for the development and persistence of SUD. Such research should also reach beyond traditional CPT measures and include other cognitive and behavioral deficits that were associated with ADHD, such as distractibility and hyperactivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-294
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Addiction Research
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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