ADHD Drugs Linked With Lower Risk of Unnatural Death

Amphetimine-based drugs used to treat ADHD may cut fatality risk, suggests study published in JAMA, one of the world's most widely read medical journals

Medicines used to treat children and adults with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) reduce the higher-than-average risk for premature death, suggests a study in the world’s most widely distributed medical journal.

Researchers in Sweden tracked 148,578 children and adults with ADHD. Within three months of being diagnosed, about 57% had started on medications.

Within two years, 632 patients had died, the researchers reported. Overall, among every 10,000 individuals, mortality rates were 39.1% in the medication group compared with 48.1% in those not receiving treatment. The findings were reported in JAMA, the world’s most widely circulated  international peer-reviewed general medical journal. 

More than half of the deaths were due to unnatural causes, such as accidental injuries, accidental poisoning, and suicide.

After accounting for other risk factors, use of medication was associated with 21% lower odds of death from any cause, and 25% lower odds of death from unnatural causes, for males in particular, the researchers found.

The short-term study was not a randomised trial, so it is unclear whether the use of medication explains the results and, if it does, whether the effect is seen over time.

Also unclear, according to an editorial published with the study, is whether ADHD treatment reduces the risk of premature death directly by reducing impulsive behaviours, or indirectly by alleviating core symptoms of the disease.

“Future research should investigate the potential relationship between ADHD symptom severity and mortality outcomes for those receiving medication treatment,” the editorial said.

ADHD pharmas include Teva, Janssen & Noven

ADHD affects 5.9% of young people and 2.5% of adults worldwide, according to the 2021 World Federation of ADHD International.

The prevalence of ADHD among prison populations is believed to be around ten times that of the general population. An estimated 25% of adults in prison have ADHD, compared to 2.5% of adults in the general population (Young & Cocallis, 2021).

ADHD medicines are amphetamine-based. Amphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant, and is also used in the treatment of narcolepsy and obesity. It was discovered as a chemical in 1887 by Lazăr Edeleanu, and used as a drug in the late 1920s. The first amphetamine pharmaceutical was Benzedrine.

Modern amphetamine-based medicines include Adderall (Teva Pharmaceutical), Concerta (Janssen), Daytrana (Noven), Dexedrine (Cardinal Health) and Dyanavel XR (Tris Pharma).

Amphetamine is a tightly controlled pharmaceutical, due to the health risks associated with recreational use. 

About JAMA

JAMA, first published in 1883. It is a member of the JAMA Network, a consortium of peer-reviewed, general medical and specialty publications.

The online version is freely available to institutions in developing countries through the World Health Organization's HINARI program.


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