Medication May Slash Risk Of Car Crashes Among Drivers With ADHD

Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may have a better time behind the wheels, with new findings showing that they may be safer from car crashes by staying on their medication.

A new study published May 10, Wednesday, found that car accidents occurred at drastically lower rates among ADHD patients taking their prescribed medications than those not sticking to their drug therapy.

Study Findings

ADHD symptoms include impaired ability to pay attention or control one’s impulses, as exhibited by actions such as excessive talking or fidgeting. A person with ADHD may maintain all or some of these behaviors that may get in the way of safe driving and other regular activities.

In a new study conducted at the Karolinska Institutet, U.S. males with ADHD were found to be 38 percent less likely to figure in a car crash in the months they have been getting medication. The risk was 42 percent lower for women when medicated.

Lead author Zheng Chang along with his team estimated that up to 22 percent of car crashes, too, could not have occurred if drivers with ADHD had obtained medication.

“This is a prevalent and preventable cause of mortality and morbidity among patients with ADHD, and that is an important reason we investigated this issue,” Chang told CNN, adding that core symptoms like inattention and impulsivity could predispose the patients to increased accident and injury risks.

The team used health insurers’ data from 2005 to 2014, identifying over 2.3 million in the United States over age 18 who were diagnosed the neurodevelopmental disorder. Of these people, over 1.9 million or almost 84 percent received a minimum of one ADHD prescription drug.

They saw that nearly 11,500 ADHD patients had an ER visit after a car accident.

Some of the limitations of the study are that it focused on ER visits alone, not deadly accidents or less severe cases that did not require medical attention. A filled prescription, too, does not readily mean the ADHD drug was taken.

ADHD-Related Driving Safety Risks

Around the world, car crashes lead to around 1.25 million deaths every year. In the United States alone, more than 32,000 were killed in these crashes in 2015, with distracted driving claiming 3,477 of those lives, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Dr. Vishal Madaan and Daniel J. Cox stated that potentially most vehicular collisions do not result in an ER visit, and that there are crash victims no longer seeking medical assistance. The researchers therefore likely underreported the benefits of the right ADHD medication and its impact on driving safety, they said.

Driving, the two researchers explained, stands for a “complex neurobehavioral task” that involves cognitive, motor, perceptual, as well as visuospatial abilities, so it may not be a task a person with ADHD may completely master. People with ADHD also commonly forget taking their prescriptions or see their medication wear off at the time of the accident, especially late at night, the editorial went further.

The findings were detailed in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

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