ADHD Med Use May Help Cut Car Crashes

The use of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications was associated with a reduced risk of motor vehicle crashes in patients with this disorder, according to a new study published online in JAMA Psychiatry.

Previous research has shown that ADHD patients may be at greater risk for motor vehicle crashes, but whether treatment with ADHD medications affects this risk remains unclear. Using commercial health insurance claims, the researchers were able to identify a cohort of patients who received an ADHD diagnosis or filled an ADHD drug between January 2005 and December 2014 (n=2,319,450). These patients were matched to a control group with no ADHD diagnosis or prescription fill. The main outcome of the study was emergency department visits for motor vehicle crashes.

Compared to controls, patients with ADHD were found to be at greater risk for motor vehicle crashes (odds ratio [OR], 1.49; 95% CI, 1.46–1.54 for men; OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.41–1.48 for women), however, for both male and female patients, the use of ADHD medication significantly reduced this risk by 12% and 14%, respectively. The risk of motor vehicle crash for male patients was reduced by 38% during the months when medication was taken, compared to the months when it was not. Similarly, female patients had a 42% reduction in risk during treatment months compared to non-treatment months.  

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“Assuming a causal association, our estimates of [population-attributable fraction] suggested that up to 22% of the [motor vehicle crashes] in patients with ADHD could have been avoided if those patients had received medication during their entire follow-up,” the authors noted.

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder which affects approximately 2.5–3.4% of adults. The authors conclude that the findings of their study “call attention to a prevalent and preventable cause of mortality and morbidity among patients with ADHD.”

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