Medication for ADHD linked to lower risk of early death

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In a significant leap forward in understanding ADHD and its management, researchers from the Karolinska Institutet have unveiled findings that suggest medication for ADHD can reduce the risk of premature death, particularly deaths from unnatural causes like accidents and overdoses.

Published in JAMA, this study adds a crucial layer to our knowledge of ADHD, a condition often associated with increased mortality rates.

ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a condition characterized by symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Previous studies have highlighted that individuals with ADHD face a higher risk of premature death than the general population. However, the impact of ADHD medications on this risk remained unclear until now.

The study closely examined the health records of nearly 150,000 Swedes aged between 6 and 64, diagnosed with ADHD from 2007 to 2018.

By comparing those who began medication within three months of their diagnosis against those who did not, researchers found a clear association between medication use and a reduced risk of death, particularly from unnatural causes, which dropped by a quarter for the medicated group.

Lin Li, a postdoctoral researcher and the study’s first author, emphasized the significance of these findings.

The research pointed out the protective effect of ADHD medications against the risk of dying from unnatural causes, such as overdoses, which saw the most notable decrease.

However, it’s important to note that the study, due to its observational nature, cannot definitively establish causality.

The findings underscore the potential life-saving impact of timely ADHD medication initiation. Yet, the decision to prescribe these medications isn’t straightforward.

Another study from the same team in 2023 highlighted a concerning link between ADHD medications and an increased risk of hypertension and arterial diseases, showcasing the complex balance between benefits and potential risks.

Going forward, the research team plans to delve deeper into the long-term effects of ADHD medication.

Zheng Chang, a senior researcher and the study’s last author, shared that future studies would focus on understanding how the benefits observed might hold up over time and identifying any long-term adverse effects.

This includes exploring different types of ADHD medications, dosage variations, treatment durations, and how these factors interact with patient sex differences.

Such comprehensive insights are vital for healthcare providers to develop personalized treatment plans for individuals with ADHD.

By finely balancing the advantages of treatment against the risks, the goal is to ensure that patients not only manage their symptoms effectively but also enjoy a reduced risk of premature death, leading to healthier, longer lives.

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The research findings can be found in JAMA.

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