Older teens and adults with attention deficit disorder are much less likely to commit a crime while on ADHD medication, a provocative study from Sweden found.
It also showed in dramatic fashion how much more prone people with ADHD are to break the law – four to seven times more likely than others.
The findings suggest that Ritalin, Adderall and other drugs that curb hyperactivity and boost attention remain important beyond school-age years and that wider use of these medications in older patients might help curb crime.
The study was led by Paul Lichtenstein of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The findings were published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine.
About 5 percent of children in the U.S. and other Western countries have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which can cause impulsive behavior and difficulty paying attention. Many youngsters are given medication to help them sit still and focus in school. Some people have symptoms into adulthood.
“It’s well known that individuals with ADHD have much higher rates of criminality and drug abuse than people without ADHD,” but the effect of treatment on this is not well known, Lichtenstein said.
Using Swedish national registers, researchers studied about 16,000 men and 10,000 women ages 15 and older who had been diagnosed with ADHD.
Court and prison records were used to track convictions from 2006 through 2009 and see whether patients were taking ADHD drugs when their crimes were committed. For comparison purposes, researchers matched each ADHD patient with 10 similar people without the disorder from the general population.
• About 37 percent of men with ADHD were convicted of at least one crime during that four-year period, compared with just 9 percent of men without ADHD. For women, the crime rates were 15 percent with ADHD and 2 percent without it.
• Use of ADHD medicines reduced the likelihood of committing a crime by 32 percent in men and 41 percent in women.