Risky Behaviors From ADHD

ADHD in childhood may lead to riskier behavior in adulthood

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may struggle in school. When they grow up, they may take more risks.

A recent study tracked kids with ADHD into adulthood. They found that men with ADHD who developed other psychiatric conditions engaged in more risky driving and sexual behaviors as adults.

Kids with ADHD who did not develop other psychiatric problems engaged in some risky behaviors as young adults, but the risky behavior decreased as they aged.

The study also found that taking stimulant medicines for ADHD as a child did not increase heart problems in adulthood.

"Ask a psychiatrist about child behavior issues."

The researchers, led by Maria A. Ramos Olazagasti, PhD, of the New York University Medical Center, wanted to know if childhood ADHD was associated with risk taking behaviors in adulthood.

School-age boys with ADHD were enrolled in the study. None of the boys had conduct disorders at the start of the study, and most of them (about 88 percent) were taking some type of stimulant medication for their ADHD.

They interviewed 135 men who had ADHD as children and 136 men who did not have ADHD as children. The interviews asked the men about risky driving, risky sex, medical conditions and other psychiatric conditions. Interviews took place when the men were about 18 years old, when they were about 25 years old and again when they were about 40 years old.

They study found that men who had ADHD as children were more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors than those without ADHD. They were about two times more likely to have gotten tickets for reckless driving. Men with ADHD were also about two times more likely to have had their licenses revoked or suspended and one and half times more likely to have received five or more speeding tickets.

The men who had ADHD as children were also more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior over their lifetimes. They were two times more likely to have started having sex by age 15 and to have had more than 26 sexual partners over their lifetime.

Men with ADHD were more likely to have had a sexually transmitted disease, to have had a head injury and to have visited the emergency room, compared to those without ADHD.

A small set of subjects with ADHD developed conduct disorder or antisocial personality disorder as adults.The researchers found that developing these disorders as an adult influenced the persistence of risky behaviors.

Conduct disorder is a psychological disorder in which people show no regard for basic human rights or do not act in age-appropriate ways. Antisocial personality disorder has similar symptoms but is more long lasting than conduct disorder.

Men with ADHD who developed conduct or antisocial personality disorder were more likely to continue risky behaviors until age 40. Men with ADHD who did not develop these disorders showed a decline in risky behavior as they aged.

The authors concluded that kids with ADHD who developed conduct disorder or antisocial personality disorder engaged in more risky behaviors as adults, and that stimulant use by kids with ADHD was not linked to having more heart issues as adults.

The study did not look at those who had conduct disorder as children, so the influence of conduct disorder on risky behaviors in adulthood may be different for kids who develop conduct disorder earlier in life.

This study was published January 5 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 25, 2013
Last Updated:
January 28, 2013