Software detects possible link between childhood attention-deficit disorder, adult drug addiction

November 26, 2002

Irvine, Calif.--UC Irvine College of Medicine researchers made a surprising find recently: Many drug addicts had a childhood history of attention-deficit disorder. And while this discovery may prove invaluable for treating ADD and drug abuse, it was how the researchers came across this link that immediately interested them.

The link was uncovered by chance while testing a software program called PCAD 2000--a program designed for the more limited purpose of detecting cognitive impairment.

While researchers warn that high rates of childhood ADD do not mean that the disorder causes drug addiction--only that ADD and addiction are somehow related--they do believe this indicates that the software may be more sensitive than other tests designed to screen for cognitive impairment.

Dr. Louis Gottschalk, professor of psychiatry, and his research team conducted the study, which appears in the December issue of the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

According to Gottschalk, who co-invented the software, while the program worked just as well as traditional tests for detecting confusion, muddled thinking or other cognitive dysfunctions in the patients, PCAD 2000 uncovered something the traditional methods appeared to miss: Nearly 30 percent of the patients had ADD as children.

Gottschalk and his colleagues reached this conclusion by comparing results from more than 100 men who were in drug abuse recovery programs at UCI Medical Center and the Long Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Long Beach. The software analyzes speech and written content for patterns that indicate any number of disorders showing cognitive impairment. Except for the finding on ADD, the software matched the results of the other tests.

The findings suggest that the software could be used in place of other traditional tests to quickly and effectively determine cognitive impairment in patients.

"The software was performing just as well as all the other tests used on cognitive impairment," Gottschalk said. "But the software's findings on ADD surprised us. Only further research can tell us whether ADD may cause drug addiction later in life, or if addiction and ADD may have some other, more fundamental cause."

Gottschalk has been fine-tuning his cognitive impairment software for more than 40 years. In 1988, he revealed his software was used to determine that former President Ronald Reagan suffered from cognitive impairment. More recently, he used the software to analyze the cognition of Theodore Kaczynski, the convicted Unabomber.
For more information on Gottschalk's work and the PCAD 2000 software, see the Web site at

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University of California - Irvine

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