Pharmacological Treatment of ADHD May Cut Some Forms of Criminality

Study finds reduction in impulsive-reactive behavior-related crimes but not those with intent or planning
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WEDNESDAY, May 29, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Pharmacological treatment may reduce some types of criminality among adolescents and young adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a study published online in the April issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Tarjei Widding-Havneraas, from Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, and colleagues estimated causal effects of pharmacological treatment of ADHD on four-year criminal outcomes. Analysis included registry data from 5,624 patients (aged 10 to 18 years) diagnosed with ADHD between 2009 and 2011, their use of ADHD medication, and subsequent criminal charges.

The researchers found that criminality was higher in patients with ADHD versus the general population. There was variation in medication preference by clinics, which strongly affected patients' treatment. There was a protective effect of pharmacological treatment on violence-related and public order-related charges (numbers needed to treat: 14 and eight, respectively). However, there was no association seen between treatment and drug-, traffic-, sexual-, or property-related charges.

"In conclusion, this is the first study to demonstrate causal effects of pharmacological treatment of ADHD on some types of crimes in a population-based natural experiment," the authors write. "Pharmacological treatment of ADHD reduced crime related to impulsive-reactive behavior in patients with ADHD on the margin of treatment. No effects were found on crimes requiring criminal intent, conspiracy, and planning."

Abstract/Full Text

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