Losing focus for even one second while behind the wheel can end in disaster, especially for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who are predisposed to being impulsive and have difficulty concentrating. A study out of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found that almost half of all traffic accidents can be avoided if men would take their medications for ADHD.

"Even though many people with ADHD are doing well, our results indicate that the disorder may have very serious consequences", Henrik Larsson, associate professor at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the institute, said in a statement. Our study also demonstrates in several different ways that the risk of transport accidents in adult men with ADHD decreases markedly if their condition is treated with medication." Larsson and his colleagues from the Swedish health institute used public health registries that included 17,000 people who were diagnosed with ADHD between 2006 and 2009. Instead of comparing individuals against each other, the research team decided to compare each participant against themselves. Data from each person diagnosed with ADHD was investigated during times with pharmaceutical ADHD medication and times without ADHD medication.

Similar to previous studies, findings showed that a person diagnosed with ADHD holds a 45 percent increased risk of being involved in a traffic accident when compared with someone without ADHD. When compared against themselves, people with ADHD lowered their risk of a traffic accident by 58 percent while taking their medication. A comprehensive statistical analysis for all four years of data concluded that 41 percent of traffic accidents involving men with ADHD can be avoided by taking their medication. "Despite having shown that medication for ADHD very likely reduces men's risk of transport accidents, we could not establish a similar reduction in women's accident risk", Larsson added. "We need further data to be able to comment about the effect on women with statistical certainty. It is also important to point out that most pharmaceutical treatments carry a risk of side effects. The risks must be weighed against the benefits for every individual prescription, taking into account the individual patient's situation."

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children diagnosed with ADHD increased by 42 percent between 2003 and 2012 making it the most common neurological disorder in children. Symptoms of ADHD, which tend to persist into adulthood, usually include forgetfulness, impulsiveness, being easily distracted, and trouble completing tasks. Nearly 3.5 million children in the U.S. are prescribed ADHD medication such as Ritalin and Adderall. This type of medication is said to improve attention and impulse control by targeting the brain’s central nervous system.

Source: Zheng Z, Lichtenstein P, D'Onofrio B, Sjölander A, Larsson H. Serious transport accidents in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity disorders and the effect of medication: A Population-Based Study. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014.