Many persons with ADHD have successful careers and stable home lives. However, the sad reality for many people with ADHD is that the impulsiveness which defines their disorder puts them at risk of committing crimes. Study after study hammers out the unfortunate fact that persons with ADHD are more than twice as likely to be arrested compared with a control group without ADHD (42% vs 24%), three times more likely to be convicted (42% vs 14%), and 15 times more likely to serve time in jail (15% vs 1%). Up to 40% of prisoners have ADHD, and their recidivism rate is astoundingly high—up to two thirds are rearrested within three years. But a study out of Sweden published in the New England Journal of Medicine strongly suggests that older teens and adults with ADHD who are medicated are much less likely to commit a crime than those who are not medicated.
Because Sweden has a national health registry, researchers were able to compare the records of 26,000 patients who had been diagnosed with ADHD with those of individuals who had criminal convictions between 2006 through 2009. Researchers were able to use these records to determine if the person with ADHD were taking medicine at the time the crime was committed. Results were striking. They found that men with ADHD who were medicated were 32% less likely to commit a crime than men with ADHD who were not medicated, and women with ADHD were 41% less likely to commit a crime than women who were not medicated. Additionally, the researchers found that 37% of men with ADHD were convicted of committing at least one crime during this period compared with 9% of men without ADHD. (For women, the rates were 15% vs 2%).