Study: ADHD medication may help curb crime
November 21st, 2012
05:01 PM ET

Study: ADHD medication may help curb crime

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is often associated with the wandering minds and erratic behavior of schoolchildren, but it can have serious consequences for adults as well. A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that people with ADHD who are on medications for the condition are less likely to commit crimes.

"We found the same pattern regardless of which type of crime," said Paul Lichtenstein of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, lead author of the study.

ADHD is associated with conduct problems in children and adults, the study said. People with ADHD commonly stop taking their prescribed medications, particularly adolescents and young adults, according to the study.

ADHD medications control patients' symptoms of impulsiveness, irritability and restlessness. By helping tame impulsive urges, the drugs may be also preventing patients from engaging in illegal acts including violent behaviors, Lichtenstein said.

The study focused on Sweden. Comparisons with the United States are not straightforward, the study noted, because of differences in legal and judicial systems compared to Western Europe. The authors write that they "cannot address whether the associations would be the same in other cultures, and thus generalizations should be made with caution."

Still, the research may give an extra incentive for people who have been prescribed ADHD medications to continue taking them, Lichtenstein said. Also, it may suggest that prison populations could benefit from ADHD screening, as appropriate treatment could help reduce repeat offenses, he said.

About 4.1% of adults in the United States ages 18 to 44 have ADHD, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Lichtenstein and colleagues used data about more than 25,000 ADHD patients, using information from Swedish registers. More than half were men. The researchers were able to obtain information about these people's medications and criminal convictions from 2006 to 2009.

ADHD patients receiving medication were less likely to commit crimes than those who did not get pharmacological treatment, the researchers found. Specifically, men were 32% less likely and women were 41% less likely to have been convicted of a crime in the time period that researchers studied. It did not seem to matter whether the treatment was a stimulant or non-stimulant medication.

Researchers also looked at whether a single person would have a different likelihood of criminal behavior during treatment periods, compared to non-treatment periods. A treatment period consists of a sequence of prescriptions separated by no more than six months. In patients who had both periods of treatment and non-treatment, the risk of being convicted of a crime went up by 12% during non-treatment, the study said.

The study authors wrote, "It is possible that pharmacologic ADHD treatment helps patients to better organize their lives or contributes to enduring changes at the neuronal level." However, the study did not specifically investigate these issues.

The results must be taken with a few grains of salt. This is not a randomized, controlled trial, which is the gold standard of science, so the researchers did not have any direct control over when or how patients took their medications. Scientists don't know whether patients drank a lot of alcohol while taking the medications, or had supportive family members who collected their prescriptions.

But the study employed several methods to look closely at the data and search for other factors that could influence the connection between criminality and ADHD.

Researchers looked at criminality rates among patients who had discontinued the use of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, a kind of medication for depression, and did not find a link there.

Medication is only one treatment option for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder; behavioral interventions are also possible. Each individual should weigh the benefits and drawbacks of treatments in his or her own situation, Lichtenstein said.

soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    Oh, you mean "Breaking Bad" for real?

    November 21, 2012 at 20:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bias?

      why is everyone so bias? makes me wonder.

      December 6, 2012 at 12:26 | Report abuse |
  2. COOL!!!!!

    Amphetamines for all!!!!!!!!

    November 21, 2012 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. J man

    Want to know how to lower crime? Make certain drugs legal!

    November 22, 2012 at 03:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Claudia

      well, why would you want to make ddrugs elegal

      December 6, 2012 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
  4. Skyler

    Which pharmacy paid for this study?

    November 22, 2012 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. strayan

    I got a script for Desoxyn and immediately stopped breaking the law.

    November 22, 2012 at 20:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Thinking Clearly

    Amphetamines from Mexico cause death and long prison sentences.
    Amphetamines from your doctor keep you out of prison. Nice touch.

    November 23, 2012 at 02:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jesse

    Hey Dr. i have a question my mom has low red blood cell, can you tell me what to do and tell me what to tell her to eat because she won't listen to my dad and my grandma and my grandpa.My dad is scared she is going to die because she is young so he told me to talk to you.

    November 23, 2012 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Jean Nystrom

    My question, did this study incorporate the neuro science approach that this different nature (I do not call it a disease or disorder), could be treated using different methods besides the medication? When I changed from the medication to the neurofeedback platform – Play Attention, I saw immediate results in my 8 yr. old's behavior. Why? Because she was calmer, could focus and pay attention to any task at hand. I also saw that her aggressive behavior stopped. I am a total advocate of this method and wish more research to be done in this area. The medications only seem to treat the symptoms and not the cause. The CAUSE, which I think can be biochemical or immature growth of the cerebral cortex of the brain can be treated using these methods.

    November 23, 2012 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. LB

    I think it's very interesting how many people run to the use of medication to "control" sxs.

    November 24, 2012 at 15:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Love

    Why did they do this study?

    November 24, 2012 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. momma

    momma, poppa pop the pills u feed your children. pop the pills momma, poppa, pop the pills your doctor gives your children. pop the pills momma poppa pop pop pop the pills.

    November 25, 2012 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. momma

    momma they controlling my mind, momma poppa, they controling my mind,momma poppa. they controlling my mind momma, poppa they controlling my momma my momma my mind poppa

    November 25, 2012 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. momma

    momma they killed my soul ,poppa they kill my, poppa my soul the drugs momma killed my soul. they killed my soul momma those kills momma i got no soul momma, poppa they killed my soul those pills poppa

    November 25, 2012 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. fernace

    What I have found is that a lot of prescription drugs are a favorite on the street! I know of people who sell their Adderal & users get addicted! Sounds like a crime to me!!

    November 26, 2012 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Responsible Med User

    I like how in the 4th to last paragraph the reporter finally says "The results must be taken with a few grains of salt." Let's try to put that a bit more up front before suggesting that unmedicated people with ADHD are criminals. I realize the implications of impulse control among those with ADHD but using a subpar study to suggest that they are potential criminals is irresponsible.

    December 3, 2012 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D.I.

      You are correct sir/ma'am. I grew up with ADHD, stop taking meds in fifth grade (because they were backfiring). Normally, kids grow out of it in puberty, but I didn't; I chose not to. As an adult I was verified to still have ADHD, still don't take meds for it. I joined the military for 6 years, people told me when I got out that the military needs people like me, but I didn't want to deal with it anymore (not for me, but I have no regrets about it). Now I have a good job making over 50K a year, never commited a crime, and work well with my peers. This was because my parents made sure that I understood my choices and would not let me use it as some sort of excuse. They knew what they were doing and they understood when it was me just being me or me losing impulse control and taught me how to get it back in check. So I can argue this topic everyday and will say it gets a bad reputation because people don't read everything about it, mark notes like this at the bottom, and act like the it is a disadvantage.

      December 7, 2012 at 13:12 | Report abuse |
  16. lovebelievefaith

    When using this study the only use to control the ADHD was medication. There are many other attributes that can be used. Exercise, diet change and neuroscience. These combined with therapy are often treatment for low to mild forms of ADHD. For moderate to severe forms of ADHD, medication is sometimes the only option. I think that medication can only work with therapy and retraining self control. ADHD is a life time issue it doesn't just go away you learn how to adapt. Like DJ above, He stated he learned how to control it. I know that it says some people grow out of ADHD but more and more studies are coming out that this is not the case, that learning to control it by what is best for your situation is the key to long term control. Has this study been done with controlling ADHD with any other forms other than medication? Would the results be the same? I think that using only medication to control the ADHD and stating that it brings down crime is not a accurate study.
    I believe a study of all ways to control ADHD, including medication, should tell a better idea of if control ADHD really brings down crime. Also have to take into consideration that in this day and age that many people are just over stressed, going a million miles a hour, which mimica many syptoms of ADHD, so you have to wonder if these people are being treated correctly before these drugs are given to them? I feel that since we really don't know the situation behind each person in the study. Its hard for me to swallow that by giving someone that might or might not have ADHD medication and saying that it caused less crimes. I think that a deeper study with other variables would give a more accurate fact as to if these criminals truly could have been averted with the use of medications. I think there is many different ways to handle ADHD and if there was a better study that proved it then maybe we should medicate everyone just so they don't become criminals.

    December 15, 2012 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. your mom

    drugs are bad for u people

    March 13, 2013 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Edgar Drewniak

    Hello there, You have done a great job. I’ll definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I am sure they'll be benefited from this site.


    March 6, 2021 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. https://1222Bets.com/viewtopic.php?id=220576

    Asking questions are in fact fastidious thing if you are
    not understanding anything completely, except this paragraph
    provides fastidious understanding even.

    Feel free to surf to my web page Mega888 download (https://1222Bets.com/viewtopic.php?id=220576)

    March 10, 2021 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Zanele@silvia.woodw.o.R.t.h@oskj.jp

    Thanks on your marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you are a great author.

    I will make sure to bookmark your blog and may come
    back in the foreseeable future. I want to encourage you to continue
    your great work, have a nice evening!

    Also visit my blog post :: pusyy888 (Zanele@silvia.woodw.o.R.t.h@oskj.jp)

    March 28, 2021 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. kiss918 5.0

    Saved as a favorite, I like your website!

    Here is my site – kiss918 5.0

    April 1, 2021 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. http://elie.jp/

    It's going to be ending of mine day, however before ending I am reading this great paragraph to increase my know-how.

    Have a look at my web-site :: xe88 download (http://elie.jp/)

    April 1, 2021 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. I mega888

    I really like it when people come together and share views.
    Great website, keep it up!

    Look into my web blog I mega888

    April 1, 2021 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Ratu joker123

    Saya akan segera pegang rss feed Anda karena saya tidak bisa
    Ini waktu terbaik untuk membuat beberapa rencana untuk masa depan dan sekarang
    waktu untuk berbahagia. Saya telah membaca posting ini dan jika saya bisa, saya
    ingin menyarankan Anda beberapa hal menarik atau saran .
    Mungkin Anda bisa menulis artikel berikutnya yang mengacu pada artikel ini.
    Saya ingin membaca lebih hal tentang itu!

    Here is my page ... Ratu joker123

    April 1, 2021 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. kiosk mega888 vip

    I absolutely love your website.. Very nice colors
    & theme. Did you make this site yourself? Please reply back as I'm hoping to create my very
    own blog and want to know where you got this from or
    what the theme is named. Thanks!

    Feel free to surf to my blog ... kiosk mega888 vip

    April 2, 2021 at 01:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. xe88 promotion

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a
    little bit, but other than that, this is great blog.
    A great read. I will certainly be back.

    Here is my web site – xe88 promotion

    April 2, 2021 at 03:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. xe88 game apk

    It's enormous that you are getting thoughts from this post as well as from our discussion made here.

    my web-site: xe88 game apk

    April 2, 2021 at 05:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Scr918kiss

    Heya just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the images aren't loading properly.
    I'm not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I've tried it in two different internet browsers and both show
    the same outcome.

    my web site ... Scr918kiss

    April 2, 2021 at 06:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. mega888 online

    I just like the valuable info you provide in your articles.
    I'll bookmark your weblog and check again right here regularly.
    I'm somewhat sure I'll be informed a lot of new stuff right right here!

    Best of luck for the next!

    my site mega888 online

    April 2, 2021 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Https://918Kiss-M.Com

    WOW just what I was looking for. Came here
    by searching for adhd

    My web site :: Login Joker388 (https://918Kiss-M.Com)

    April 11, 2021 at 06:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. test sky1388

    I've been surfing online more than three hours
    nowadays, but I never found any attention-grabbing article like yours.
    It's pretty worth sufficient for me. In my view, if all website owners and bloggers made good content material as you
    probably did, the web will be much more useful than ever before.

    my web blog test sky1388

    April 11, 2021 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Playboy2

    Saved as a favorite, I love your website!

    my web site Playboy2

    April 11, 2021 at 10:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. ntc33 game list

    Good day! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this
    site? I'm getting tired of WordPress because I've had problems with
    hackers and I'm looking at options for another platform.
    I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

    Also visit my website: ntc33 game list

    April 11, 2021 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. 918kiss plus jackpot

    I just couldn't go away your website before suggesting that I extremely enjoyed
    the standard info a person provide to your visitors? Is going to
    be back frequently in order to inspect new posts

    Review my web blog: 918kiss plus jackpot

    April 11, 2021 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. https://918kiss-m.com/live22/

    At this moment I am going to do my breakfast, later than having
    my breakfast coming yet again to read additional news.

    Feel free to visit my blog post ... login live22 online (https://918kiss-m.com/live22/)

    April 12, 2021 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. https://918kiss-m.com/clubsuncity/

    Hey there, You've done an excellent job. I'll definitely
    digg it and personally recommend to my friends.

    I'm confident they'll be benefited from this website.

    my page – kiosk club suncity; https://918kiss-m.com/clubsuncity/,

    April 12, 2021 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. i1 mega888

    Helpful information. Lucky me I discovered your web site unintentionally,
    and I'm surprised why this twist of fate didn't happened in advance!
    I bookmarked it.

    my page i1 mega888

    April 12, 2021 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. https://918kiss-m.com/epicwin

    Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets
    I could add to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
    I've been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something
    like this. Please let me know if you run into anything.
    I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

    Also visit my page: id test epicwin; https://918kiss-m.com/epicwin,

    April 12, 2021 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. cara masuk Id test sky777

    I got this web page from my buddy who told me regarding this web site and now this time I am visiting this web
    page and reading very informative posts at this place.

    my blog post ... cara masuk Id test sky777

    April 12, 2021 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. free download ok388

    It's really a great and helpful piece of info. I'm glad that you shared this helpful info
    with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

    Also visit my web-site :: free download ok388

    April 12, 2021 at 18:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. 3win8

    Good day! I simply would like to give you a huge thumbs up for the excellent info you
    have here on this post. I am returning to your blog for more

    Here is my website: 3win8

    April 13, 2021 at 01:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. mega888 download android

    This is really interesting, You're a very skilled blogger.
    I've joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your excellent post.

    Also, I've shared your website in my social networks!

    Feel free to visit my web-site ... mega888 download android

    April 13, 2021 at 03:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. 918kissapk

    I read this article completely concerning the
    comparison of hottest and previous technologies, it's remarkable article.

    Feel free to visit my webpage: 918kissapk

    April 13, 2021 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Tien Fedder

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a online game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these Second Life articles and blogs


    May 10, 2021 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Dominque Eastes

    This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though


    May 12, 2021 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.