Ritalin and other stimulants are often used in people with ADHD. Those who take prescription medications for the disorder are less likely to experience long-term unemployment, according to a new study. Photo by Sponge/Wikimedia Commons
April 27 (UPI) -- Adults who treat their ADHD with prescription medication may be at lower risk for long-term unemployment compared with those who don't take the drugs, a study published Wednesday found.
Among nearly 13,000 people age 18 years and older diagnosed with ADHD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, women who took prescription drugs to manage symptoms during the previous two years were 18% less likely to experience long-term unemployment, the researchers said.
However, men with the disorder did not glean as great a benefit from medication, as those who used prescription drugs to manage symptoms were only 4% less likely to experience long-term unemployment, the data, published Wednesday by JAMA Network Open, showed.
"The hypothesis of this study is that ADHD medications are effective in reducing ADHD symptoms, which may in turn help to improve work performance among individuals with ADHD," Lin Li, a co-author of the study, told UPI in an email.
"We found the use of ADHD medication is associated with a lower risk of long-term unemployment, especially for women," said LI, a doctoral student and researcher at Orebro University in Sweden.
The findings are based on an analysis of data for 12,875 Swedish adults -- most of whom were in their 30s, while 42% were women -- diagnosed with ADHD between 2008 and 2013.
About two-thirds of the study participants had been treated with prescription medications to help manage the symptoms of ADHD at some point, the researchers said.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes excessive inattention, carelessness, hyperactivity and impulsivity that can be disabling, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The disorder is most often diagnosed during childhood -- when it can impact academic performance and social development -- but the symptoms can persist well into adulthood, the National Institute of Mental Health says.
About 4% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with the disorder, the institute estimates. In this country, more than 40 medications have been approved to treat ADHD in adults and children, according to the ADD Association.
Most of these drugs are stimulants, but some also target certain functions of chemicals and cells in the brain to address the disorder's symptoms, the association says.
Though effective, many drugs used to treat ADHD have significant side effects, including sleep problems, mood changes, facial tics, appetite changes and increase in blood pressure, the association adds.
In this study, the longer participants were treated with medications for their ADHD, the lower their risk long-term unemployment, the researchers said.
Women who were treated for one to six had a 14% lower risk for long-term unemployment, while those on prescription drug therapy for 18 to 24 months had a 28% lower risk, the data showed.
The risk for long-term unemployment among all study participants was 11% lower during the periods in which those on prescription medication were taking their treatments, according to the researchers.
"The potential beneficial associations of medication use with long-term unemployment should be carefully weighed against potential adverse effects of medication," Lin and her colleagues wrote.
"Future research should further explore the effectiveness of stimulant and non-stimulant ADHD medications and replicate our findings in other settings," they said.