Defendant, Did You Take Your Meds Today?

Skipping ADHD medication and crime may be linked

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) There's a common misconception that all criminals are mentally ill or those with psychiatric disorders are more likely to commit crimes. Neither may be true – if the illness is treated. But untreated mental health conditions may play a role in some crimes.

A recent study found that crime rates were lower among patients with ADHD when they were taking their medication.

When these researchers compared crime rates for the same person when they were and were not taking their medication, they found that the crime rate was 32 to 41 percent lower when the patients were taking their ADHD medications.

"Follow your psychiatrist's treatment plan."

The study, led by Paul Lichtenstein, PhD, from the Department of Medical Epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, looked at crime rates among those with ADHD over a three-year period. The researchers gathered data from files on 25,656 Swedish patients who had been diagnosed with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This group included 16,087 men and 9,569 women.

The researchers looked at what the patients had been prescribed and any criminal convictions they had from 2006 to 2009. Then they compared the rate of criminal behavior among these individuals while they were taking ADHD medications to the rate when they were not taking medication.

They found that while men with ADHD were taking their medication, there was a 32 percent reduction in their crime rate compared to when they were off the medications.

Among women with ADHD, the crime rate was 41 percent lower in the population when they were taking their ADHD medication.

A little over half the men (54 percent) had taken an ADHD medication, and just over a third (37 percent) had been convicted of at least one crime over the three years of the study period. Among the general population, 9 percent had been convicted of a crime over that time period.

About 63 percent of the female patients had taken ADHD medication, and 15 percent had been convicted of a crime during the three years, compared to 2.2 percent of the women in the general population. The researchers also did an analysis to account for the fact that a person who takes his medication might have a different personality than one who never took medications.

There were some variations in how reduced the crime rate was within the population of men with ADHD, depending on what types of drugs they had been prescribed and what types of crimes were included in the analysis.

"These findings raise the possibility that the use of medication reduces the risk of criminality among patients with ADHD," the authors wrote.

The study was published November 21 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research was funded by the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, the Swedish Prison and Probation Services, the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Wellcome Trust.

The authors declared no conflicts of interest or disclosures. None reported receiving grant, honorarium, speaking or other funds from any pharmaceutical companies.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 20, 2012
Last Updated:
March 26, 2013