ADHD Medication Lowers Crime
November 23, 2012

ADHD Drugs Lower Criminal Behavior

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

A study by British and Swedish researchers recently found that medication for attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could help reduce some instances of criminal behavior.

Medications like Adderall, Ritalin, and other drugs could help limit hyperactivity and elevate the ability to focus. Reuters reports that Ritalin is produced by Novartis, a Swedish drug maker, while companies sell other ADHD drugs like Eli Lilly (Strattera), Johnson & Johnson (Concerta), and Shire (Adderall and Vyvanse).

These medications could be beneficial for children past school and into their adult life.

"There definitely is a perception that it's a disease of childhood and you outgrow your need for medicines," Dr. William Cooper, a Vanderbilt University professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine, told the Associated Press (AP). "We're beginning to understand that ADHD is a condition for many people that really lasts throughout their life."

Based on the findings of the research project, the team of investigators found that, when the patients had been taking their ADHD medication, there was a drop of 32 percent in the criminality rate of men and 41 percent reduction of crime for females.

"We have shown that ADHD medication very probably reduces the risk of crime," explained Henrik Larsson, an associate professor at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Karolinska Institutet, in a prepared statement. "However, we need to point out that most medical treatments can have adverse side effects, so risks must be weighed up against benefits and the individual patient's entire life situation taken into consideration before medications are prescribed."

The team of investigators noted that, overall, the rates of criminality were lower when patients were taking their ADHD medication and it posits that the correct use of medication can help lower the risk of criminality for patients who are diagnosed with ADHD. The researchers accounted for factors like various types of crimes, different forms of drugs, and other existing disorders.

"Potential beneficial effects would have to be carefully weighed against potential adverse effects of medication, including overprescription and side effects," wrote the researchers in the journal article.

In the study, the scientists looked at Swedish national registers and pooled data from 25,656 patients who were diagnosed with ADHD. They looked at the medication records following 2005 as well as any criminal convictions they had in Sweden between 2006 and 2009. According to Med Page Today, the study subjects were a range of ages: approximately half of the participants between 15 and 25 years of age, approximately one-third between 25 to 39 years of age, and the rest of the subjects were over 40 years of age.

The researchers then compared the rate of criminality when the patients were taking their ADHD medication to the rate of criminality when the same patients were not taking their medication.

"Of course the potential pros and cons of each prescription have to be evaluated," commented the study´s co-author Paul Lichtenstein, a researcher at the Karolinska Institutet, in the statement. "What we're saying is that this probable reduction in the risk of crime must also be taken into account. It's said that roughly 30 to 40 per cent of long-serving criminals have ADHD. If their chances of recidivism can be reduced by 30 per cent, it would clearly effect total crime numbers in many societies."

The current study had a few limitations, including not being able to take out cofounding variables such as the use of other prescription medications or alcohol. As well, due to the differences in judicial systems throughout the world, the findings can only be applied to those who are under the jurisdiction of Swedish law.

Researchers were interested in looking into this particular topic, as there have been correlations between criminal behavior and ADHD in past studies. A report from WebMD stated that past research has found that people with ADHD have a greater likelihood of having problems at school and work. They also have a greater risk of abusing alcohol or other substances and suffering from anxiety or depression. Other professionals in the medical field see the results as interesting.

”There is some evidence to suggest that while on medication, a person with ADHD is less likely to get involved in criminal behavior,” Howard Abikoff, a professor at New York University´s (NYU) Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, told WebMD. “They may be less impulsive, or perhaps they are better organized in their life.” Some may have poor judgment when they are not taking medicine to control their symptoms.

Lastly, ADHD can be manageable for those diagnosed with the disease. According to the Karolinska Institutet, ADHD can be diagnosed in children early on. It is found among approximately five percent of children in the U.S. and other Western nations. Those who reported to have the condition can be treated with central stimulants that can enhance alertness and mood by activity parts of the brain that focus on boosting attention along with improving impulse control.

The results of the study were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.