“[Prior studies] suggest that ADHD is associated with a 40% to 50% increase in the risk of injuries in children and adolescents. Pharmacological treatment for ADHD has been reported to be effective for core symptoms and cognitive deficits associated with ADHD. Hence it may be hypothesized that, by reducing distractibility, impulsivity, and overactivity, ADHD medication may prevent unintentional injuries,” Laura Ghirardi, M.Sc., of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and colleagues wrote.
To test their hypotheses, the researchers analyzed prescription and health data from more than 1.9 million children and adolescents aged 6 to 19 years who had either been diagnosed with ADHD or received a prescription for ADHD medication between 2005 and 2014. They followed the participants for a median of 15 to 17 months and tracked emergency department visits for injuries with an unintentional cause, including traumatic brain injuries. During the follow-up period, 87,154 study participants had at least one emergency department visit for an unintentional injury.
The researchers found that participants who were taking ADHD medications (based on prescription claims data) were 13% to 15% less likely to have unintentional injuries during the follow-up period than participants who were not taking medications. They also found that participants who took ADHD medications were 9% to 15% less likely to have an unintentional traumatic brain injury than participants who did not take the medications.
The researchers also looked at how taking ADHD medications affected risk on an individual level (the difference in risk between taking the medication and not taking the medication in the same person). They found that participants were 29% less likely to have unintentional injuries and 33% to 37% less likely to experience traumatic brain injuries when they took ADHD medications than when they didn’t take the medications.
In their conclusion, the researchers noted that their results were similar for boys and girls at different ages.
“These results highlight how the use of ADHD medication may be associated with beneficial effects that go beyond reducing core symptoms of ADHD and extend to the prevention of health-adverse events, such as physical injuries, including [traumatic brain injury],” they wrote.
For related news, see the Psychiatric News article “Medicated ADHD Patients Have Reduced Risk of Motor Vehicle Crashes” and the Psychiatric Services article “Evidence of Low Adherence to Stimulant Medication Among Children and Youths With ADHD: An Electronic Health Records Study.”