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The University of Southampton

ADHD medication can be lifesaving, scientists find

Published: 18 March 2024
ADHD Medication

Medication used for ADHD can reduce the risk of premature death, says new research.

A study by Southampton scientists, with the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Örebro University, Indiana University, and Bloomington in the USA, found the risk of dying from unnatural causes, such as accidents and overdoses, can be reduced by a quarter.

The report, published in JAMA, followed nearly 150,000 Swedes aged between six and 64 years old who were diagnosed with ADHD between 2007 and 2018.

Previous research has shown that people diagnosed with ADHD have an increased risk of premature death, however, it is not clear whether medications for ADHD affect this risk.

Researchers investigated the risk of death up to two years after diagnosis and compared those who started medication within three months of diagnosis – 56.7 per cent – with those who did not.

It showed that there is a link between initiation of medication and a lower risk of death.

Co-author Professor Samuele Cortese, an NIHR Research Professor and Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Southampton, said the use of medications for ADHD is still controversial.

He added: “This study provides compelling data showing that ADHD medications reduce the risk of death due to unnatural causes.

“This study provides evidence useful to patients and clinicians when they need to decide as to whether a pharmacological treatment for ADHD should be used, taking into account expected benefits and possible risks.”

The risk of dying from unnatural causes was reduced by a quarter in the medicated group, the study reported.

Prof Cortese added: “As this is an observational study, it cannot establish a causal relationship, but the results suggest that early initiation of medication may be important for people with ADHD.

“At the same time, there are other health aspects to consider when prescribing these medications.”

In the next step, the scientists aim to further explore the long-term effects of ADHD medication.

The research team will also study the effects and mechanisms of different types of ADHD medications and how doses, duration of treatment and sex differences may affect them.

Read the study at

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