ATTENTION-DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD) increases the risk of young adults and adolescents contracting sexually transmitted infections (STI) by approximately 3-fold, according to a new Taiwanese study. ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders, affecting around 2% of young adults and 5–7% of children and adolescents.
The results, obtained by a research team led by Dr Mu-Hong Chen, Taipei Veterans General Hospital and the College of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, signal a cause for concern. However, the research team also found that ADHD medication can help to prevent acquisition of these infections.
A group of 17,898 adolescents and young adults diagnosed with ADHD were followed for a period of 9 years, alongside 71,592 age and sex-matched controls. The research team collected data relating to the prevalence of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, human immunodeficiency virus, genital warts, syphilis infections, and other STI, alongside recording the details of any pharmacological treatment for ADHD.
The research team discovered that patients diagnosed with ADHD had a greater risk of contracting STI compared to the non-ADHD control patients: 1.2% versus 0.4%, respectively. Additionally, it was uncovered that ADHD patients developed STI at a younger age than the control group, 20.51±4.49 years versus 21.90±4.49 years, respectively, and were also reported to have a higher incidence of psychiatric comorbidities. This included a higher prevalence of disruptive behaviour disorder in ADHD patients compared to non-ADHD individuals, 13.5% versus 0.3%, respectively, and a greater likelihood of ADHD patients resorting to alcohol and substance abuse compared to the control group, 1.1% and 2.5% versus 0.5% and 0.8%, respectively.
The significant difference in the behaviour between groups and the 3-times higher incidence of STI among ADHD patients is concerning; however, the research team revealed that both short and long-term use of ADHD prescription medication significantly lowered the risk of developing STI at any stage of follow up, by 30% and 41%, respectively. This shows the importance of managing ADHD with medication, as it is linked to additional health benefits.