Adults with ADHD are less likely to commit a crime when they receive medication, A study conducted in Sweden by British-Swedish researchers and led by Paul Lichtenstein of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It found that older teens and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are much less likely to commit a crime when they receive drug treatment for the disorder.
Previous research has shown that subjects with ADHD are more likely to commit crimes than the general population, being four to seven times more likely to break the law, and up to two-thirds of young offenders and half of the adult prison population have reflected ADHD. in childhood, and many can still manifest their adult symptoms.
The researchers looked at a variety of crimes, and in all of them, they found a reduction when people took medication. The study, carried out on a sample of 25,000 people, has shown that the number of crimes committed was around a third less in those who took methylphenidate and other stimulants.
The authors acknowledge that when treatment is offered, the person also receives more attention from other support services, and this, they say, could also contribute to the reduction of criminal behavior. In addition, they affirm that ADHD can exist together with other disorders, such as behavioral ones, and that is why more research is necessary to better understand how these contribute to this type of behavior. They believe the finding of this study can be applied to many other countries where rates of ADHD in children and prescription medication are similar to Sweden.
Paul Lichtenstein explained that the results suggest that encouraging more ADHD sufferers to take medication could help reduce crime. It is estimated that between 7 and 40 percent of individuals in the criminal justice system may suffer from ADHD and other similar disorders, although in many cases the disease has not been formally recognized. Lichtenstein in a statement states: “It is said that approximately 30% to 40% of criminals with long sentences have ADHD. If the chances of recidivism can be reduced by 30 percent, it is evident that it affects the total number of crimes in many societies.
In the same vein, researcher Henrik Larsson, also from the Karolinska Institute, believes that this study has shown that drugs “very likely reduce the risk of delinquency”, however, he recalls that “most medical treatments can have side effects, so the risks must be weighed against the benefits.
The findings suggest that medications that control hyperactivity and improve attention continue to be important beyond school age and that wider use of these medications in older patients could help reduce crime.
Other researchers who did not participate in the study but who work along the same lines state:
William Cooper, professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville: “There’s definitely the impression that it’s a childhood disease and then you outgrow the need for medication, but we’re beginning to understand that ADHD is a disease that many people lasts to be a lifetime.
Philip Asherson, a psychiatrist and chairman of the UK Adult ADHD Network, says: “We want people to be able to make their own decisions and have personal responsibility, no one is forcing them to take drugs.”
According to the expert, it costs between $150 and $470 a month to treat a person with ADHD with medication, and when you take into account the costs of unemployment and the criminal justice system, these “far exceed” the costs of treatment
Seena Fazel, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of Oxford, revealed at a conference in London that it would reduce crime rates in men by 32 percent and crime rates in women by 41 percent. This psychiatrist also claims that medications can reduce impulsive decisions and allow the person to better organize their life, which leads to staying in a job and maintaining a relationship.
Andrea Bilbow, founder of the National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service, comments, “Of course, there are many people with ADHD in the population who are not involved in crime,” “But for some individuals with the disorder, if they are not treated themselves they will be treated with drugs on the street”.
“Referring an adult to specialist services can cost about $2,400. If we compare this to the amount of money we could save by keeping people out of prison, it would be a no-brainer,” he says.
Sue Bailey, president of the Royal College of Psychiatry, says: “In an era where psychological therapies are prevalent, this reminds us that medication can also have a positive impact.”