HealthDay News — Taking attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications may lower criminality rates among patients with ADHD, study results suggest.

The rate of criminal convictions was 32% lower for men and 41% lower for women when they were taking ADHD medication compared with times when they were not medicated, Paul Lichtenstein, PhD, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and colleagues reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

These findings remained consistent in a sensitivity analysis of men, who typically have higher rates of both ADHD and criminality than women, after adjusting for variables including types of drugs prescribed, types of crimes and coexisting disorders.

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“These findings raise the possibility that the use of medication reduces the risk of criminality among patients with ADHD,” the researchers wrote.

Lichtenstein and colleagues used Swedish national registries to obtain data from 25,656 individuals with ADHD — 16,087 men and 9,569 women born no later than 1990. Medication prescriptions were tracked beginning in 2005 and criminal convictions were tracked from 2006 to 2009.

Overall, 53.6% of the men and 62.7% of the women received a prescription for an ADHD medication, including methylphenidate, amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, and atomoxetine (Strattera), during the follow-up period. Criminal convictions occurred in 36.6% of men and 15.4% of women. Both ADHD and criminal conviction rates were on par with those seen in the general population.

The researchers found that criminality rates declined during periods in which the patients were taking ADHD medications, with hazard ratios (HRs) of 0.68 (95% CI: 0.63-0.73) for men and 0.59 (95% CI: 0.50-0.70) for women.

“Among patients with ADHD, we found an inverse association between pharmacologic treatment for ADHD and the risk of criminality,” the researchers wrote. “Potential beneficial effects would have to be carefully weighed against potential adverse effects of medication, including overprescription and side effects.”


  1. Lichtenstein P et al. N Engl J Med 2012; 367: 2006-2014.