FRIDAY, June 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Drugs used to treat
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do not increase the
risk of suicide attempts or suicide, and may actually provide a
protective effect, a new study suggests.
Prior research had hinted that ADHD drugs might raise the risk
of suicidal behavior, according to the authors of the new report.
However, they believe that the findings of those studies were
questionable due to their studies' small size or the methods
The new study, led by Henrik Larsson of the Karolinska Institute
in Stockholm, Sweden, included all of the nearly 38,000 people in
Sweden diagnosed with ADHD between 1960 and 1996.
Larsson's team tracked their rates of suicidal behaviors between
2006 through 2009, at times when they were taking ADHD drugs or not
taking the medications.
The result: The study found no evidence that taking ADHD drugs
raised the risk of suicide attempts or suicide, the investigators
reported online June 18 in the
"Our work in several ways shows that most likely there is no
link between treatment with ADHD drugs and an increased risk of
suicide attempts or suicide. The results rather indicate that ADHD
drugs may have a protective effect," Larsson said in an institute
The authors said a particular strength of their study was that
they compared patients when they were and were not taking ADHD
drugs. Larsson noted that many population-based studies on risks
related to particular medications "fail to adjust for the
differences between individuals who take the drugs and those who do
not. This is a critical limitation given that the individuals on
medication are usually more severely ill than the others."
One U.S. expert in the care of people with ADHD said the study
gives valuable reassurance to patients.
"This rigorous study is a real contribution to the field and
should be recognized as such by laypeople and the scientific
community alike," said Dr. Aaron Krasner, service chief of the
Adolescent Transitional Living Program at Silver Hill Hospital in
New Canaan, Conn.
He said the study was well designed, both because of its very
large sample size and the fact that it tracked suicidal behaviors
when individual patients were either on or off the medications.
Krasner added that the study findings "make intuitive clinical
sense to the average practitioner... We know that our treatments
work and should not be withheld from patients unnecessarily,
provided adequate monitoring and assessment is ensured."
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about