Can including medication in your child’s ADHD treatment plan help him avoid some childhood injuries? Researchers are finding its inclusion can play a significant role in lowering the risk of injuries that could land a child in the emergency room.
In addition to reducing common injuries—broken bones and cuts needing stiches—including medication in ADHD treatment can reduce the likelihood of traumatic brain injuries from blows to the head, according to their research.
The risk of injury
Children who have ADHD are at a higher risk of injury due to inattention, hyperactivity, or a combination of both. Individuals with more severe ADHD symptoms are more likely to be injured, possibility with more severe injuries. They are 4.6 times more likely to experience a traumatic brain injury than their peers.
Novelty-seeking and the excitement of rule-breaking can lead to decisions that end in accidental injury. This is in addition to the previously mentioned symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention. Forgetfulness can also prompt actions that lead to injury.
“When asked, most children with ADHD will be able to tell you before or after what they should do in a circumstance, but when faced with that circumstance, they forget and follow the impulse,” says Glen Elliott, PhD, MD, medical director of the Children’s Health Council in Palo Alto, California.
Medication to help prevent harm
For many years doctors and researchers have recommended medication to help prevent accidents and injuries related to ADHD symptoms. Researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry shared the results after they evaluated the health records of almost two million children with an ADHD diagnosis or who were receiving medication for ADHD symptoms. Of these children, 87,154 had at least one injury that required medical treatment.
Their analysis showed that including medication in ADHD treatment was associated with a lower risk of emergency room visits for both boys and girls. Per 100,00 boys, it was 37.9 fewer ER visits and per 100,000 girls, it was 25.15 fewer ER visits. Of all injuries, it was 73.29 fewer for boys and 56.11 fewer for girls, per 100,000 each.
For traumatic brain injuries, the results also showed a decrease. Per 100,000 children—for both boys and girls—there were 4.24 fewer TBIs for boys and 1.87 fewer for girls.
“From a clinical perspective, the increasing evidence that ADHD medication seems to be associated with a reduction of severe outcomes, including injuries, but also criminality, substance use disorder, and transport accidents, may be an additional factor to consider when weighing benefits against risks of ADHD medications,” the researchers write. “These results highlight how the use of ADHD medication may be associated with beneficial effects that go beyond reducing core symptoms of ADHD and extend to the prevention of health-related adverse events, such as physical injuries, including TBI.”
Treating ADHD for a longer, healthier life
Researcher Russell A. Barkley, PhD, presented his findings that treating ADHD symptoms is an important part of addressing a person’s overall health during the 2018 Annual International Conference on ADHD. By including ADHD treatment in a comprehensive healthcare plan, a person is better able to address chronic health conditions, make and keep appointments for annual check-ups, and follow self-care routines that support good health. This includes reducing the risks and avoiding life-altering or life-ending injuries. In doing so, a person can add thirteen or more years to his life that he may not have had without treatment.
“In evaluating the health consequences of ADHD over time, we found that ADHD adversely affects every aspect of quality of life and longevity,” says Dr. Barkley. “This is due to the inherent deficiencies in self-regulation associated with ADHD that lead to poor self-care and impulsive, high-risk behavior. The findings are sobering, but also encouraging, as ADHD is the most treatable mental health disorder in psychiatry.”
Want to know more about treating ADHD to reduce injuries?
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Medication and Unintentional Injuries in Children and Adolescents
- ADHD and Life Expectancy: Treatment Matters More Than You Might Think
- The Role of Medication in ADHD Management
- Wear Your Helmet! ADHD Raises Risk of Head Injury
- Benefits and Risks of Medication Treatment
- Study Shows Medication Can Help Prevent Teens’ Risky Behaviors