"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Taking ADHD medication reduces the chance of early death

March 13, 2024 – People who take medication to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can have a lower risk of early death than individuals with ADHD who don't take medication to treat symptoms reminiscent of distraction, agitation and disorganization.

The Results were published this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association and are vital because previous research has shown that individuals with ADHD are greater than twice as prone to die prematurely from unnatural causes.

In this latest study, researchers compared the chance of death amongst greater than 148,000 people living in Sweden, of whom 57% were taking ADHD medication two years after diagnosis and 43% didn't start taking medication throughout the first three months after diagnosis. The people within the study were between 6 and 64 years old and the diagnoses were made between 2007 and 2018.

People within the medication group were taking one in all six ADHD medications: Adderall, Concerta, Guanfacine, Ritalin, Strattera or Vyvanse. The average age at diagnosis for all people within the study was just over 17 years.

Researchers found that individuals who took medication from the beginning of their diagnosis had a greater than 20% lower risk of dying from any or unnatural cause, in comparison with individuals who were newly diagnosed but no medication was prescribed. Of particular note is the reduction of the chance of unnatural death, for instance from accidental injuries, accidental poisoning or suicide.

The evaluation showed that there have been 26 deaths from unnatural causes per 10,000 people within the medication group, in comparison with 33 deaths per 10,000 people within the non-medication group.

The reduced risk of unnatural death was highlighted in a comment published alongside the study, which found that “this disorder is still frequently undiagnosed and undertreated, particularly among adults with co-occurring substance use disorders and in marginalized groups, including immigrants.” The authors of the commentary wrote that the most recent findings raise vital questions on why the treatment is related to a lower risk of death.

“Does ADHD treatment directly reduce impulsive behavior that increases the risk of premature death?” the commentary states. “Or does treating ADHD symptoms indirectly reduce accidental intoxications by reducing substance use (through better implementation of protective strategies), or does it reduce suicides by improving depressive symptoms associated with ADHD?”

About 1 in 20 Children within the U.S. are taking medication to treat ADHD, in keeping with the CDC. About 10% of U.S. children and 4% of adults are diagnosed with ADHD, the study authors noted. They said the chance of early death related to ADHD is as high as the chance related to type 2 diabetes.

“ADHD medications can reduce the chance of unnatural mortality by alleviating the core symptoms of ADHD and its psychiatric symptoms [co-occurring conditions]”, leading to improved impulse control and decision-making, ultimately reducing the occurrence of fatal events, particularly those resulting from accidental poisoning,” the authors conclude. They said early diagnosis and treatment could “change the course” of conditions common in individuals with ADHD, reminiscent of mood, anxiety and substance use disorders.