Intended for healthcare professionals


Keith Conners

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 06 July 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j2253
  1. Allen Frances, professor emeritus, former chair,
  2. Bernard J Carroll, professor emeritus, former chair
  1. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Duke University, North Carolina, USA

Last words on ADHD from the father of the diagnosis

Shortly before his death on 5 July 2017, Keith Conners helped us write this obituary. He didn’t want to talk himself up, but rather provide one last word of warning on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—a condition that 50 years ago he helped identify and validate, but recently had done his best to restrain. Keith had collaborated with Leon Eisenberg in the early 1960s, when what we now call ADHD began to take shape, and probably knew more about what the disorder is, and is not, than anyone who has ever lived.

Psychopharmacology in children

As a young child psychologist at Johns Hopkins, Eisenberg asked Keith to analyse data from the very first randomised clinical trial of d-amphetamine (Dexedrine) in children with severe hyperactivity and impulsivity. Soon after, he conducted the first trial of a much newer drug, methylphenidate (Ritalin), and published papers announcing distinctly positive results. By the end of the 1960s, Conners had developed what became the standard rating scales that were used to assess children’s symptoms and measure the impact of treatment. His work provided the foundation for psychopharmacology in children, which at the time was controversial.

Although it went …

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