On a new study, it was discovered that patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that are on medication are less likely to be involved in car crashes than the rest of the population.

Researchers determined that using ADHD medication may help lower the risk of vehicle accidents, which is a common cause of death for patients with the disorder. The car crashes taken into account in the study were deemed as avoidable if the patient had taken medication at some point before the accident.

The study shows that over 1 million people die each year as a result of car crashes. In 2014, over 33,000 deaths occurred due to traffic accidents, and that without taking into account non-lethal cases where the involved parties suffered from severe lesions. Image credit: Tufts.

ADHD does not mix well with driving

ADHD seems to affect between 5 and 7 percent of all teens and children, and in most cases, it persists through their adult years. Based on previous studies, researchers saw that ADHD patients have a higher probability of being involved in a car crash.

The issue is that not every patient suffering from ADHD takes its recommended dosage when needed, even if it is considered the most effective way to treat the disease. This led researchers to look up studies to see how the medication influenced motor vehicle crash (MVC) incidence. They took their lead from a Swedish study that registered a reduction in car crash risk in medicated male patients with ADHD, although it was not clear enough for female patients.

A teenage driving
ADHD causes lapses in attention span and alterations in decision-making, both of which are direct factors that cause car accidents. While a healthy person may manage to be briefly surprised or distracted while driving, the same event on an unmedicated ADHD patient is easily able to produce a car crash. Image credit: Mrvehicle.

To understand how ADHD treatment affects the risk of being involved in a car crash, researchers from the University of Chicago and Indiana University collaborated with Swedish researchers to analyze data provided by U.S. health care facilities and insurance companies. They analyzed the MarketScan database for patients with ADHD 18 years or older and for those that had received ADHD medication between 2005 and 2014. Each patient was followed until December 2014.

“Core symptoms of ADHD may interfere with the competencies necessary to drive safely, predisposing those with the disorder to greater risk for accidents and injuries. This is a prevalent and preventable cause of mortality and morbidity among patients with ADHD,” told Zheng Chang to CNN, lead author of the study and researcher at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

Out of 22,319,450 patients with ADHD with a median age of 32.5, at least 83 percent of them received a prescription for ADHD medicine. 11,224 of them had visited the emergency room due to a motor vehicle crash event. Finally, results showed that patients with ADHD had a higher risk of being involved in a car accident compared to healthy people, while untreated patients with the disease had the highest risk overall compared to the other two groups.

Source: JAMA Psychiatry