IMG_9845Creative Commons License photo credit: Kitsadakron

Yesterday, I stumbled on a blog post called Treatment of ADHD reduces criminality, by Dr. Timothy Bilkey.

Recently, I tried to tackle the topic (from a slightly different angle) in Binders Full of ADHDers, Part II.

Bilkey deftly handles a complex subject; but when I read his conclusion, I shuddered. My concern is not with his writing (which is excellent), my concern is that to those already laboring under misconceptions and misgivings regarding ADHD medications, the conclusion might be misconstrued.

In his post Bilkey refers to a New England Journal of Medicine study by Lichenstein et al. called, “Review of Medication for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Criminality” (published November 22, 2012).

Bilkey writes, “The authors noted that among those receiving ADHD medication, ‘There was a significant reduction of 32% in the criminality rate for men and 41% for women.’”

It would be all too easy to (mis)interpret these statistics to bolster the misinformed claim that ADHD medications are mind-numbing substances that reduce humans to enervated clods of Jell-O – and thus incapable of getting up off the couch, let alone of committing crimes.

This of course is a common fear held by well-intentioned, yet misguided parents of ADHD kids, as well as newly-diagnosed adults, and others across North America (and elsewhere).

True confession

Truth be known, I too was afraid of being Zombie-fied by meds, so I understand (and have felt, first-hand) the fear.

On the other hand, by the time I was diagnosed (at the ripe old age of 47), I was much more afraid of not taking the drug than of taking it.

Much to my relief, even after taking the medication for some time, I found myself  playing air guitar in public while crossing at a traffic light. Clearly, my inner rock Goddess was not to be silenced by mere ADHD drugs.

The actual, not mythological, effect of ADHD medication

Turn me into a placid zombie? My ADHD medication did nothing of the sort.

What ADHD medications do is address the biochemistry of ADHD brains. It’s like we’re missing the key ingredient that everyone else gets in the Iron Chef competition yet we’re still expected to compete. The meds just level the playing field.

When things that others take for granted, like controlling impulses; avoiding addiction and substance abuse; staying focused; getting an education; playing well with others, etc. go haywire, it’s not hard to see how someone could end up on the wrong side of the law.

We don’t need no education?

Bilkey points out a complex chain reaction: untreated ADHD kids bombing in school – which leads to more substance abuse in later years (as evidenced by research) – which can lead to dropping out of school – which leads to winding up, one way or another, in trouble with the law.

ADHD medication treatment may curb addictions and substance abuse (especially when it’s used as “self-medicating”) and in turn decrease the likelihood of criminal behavior.

I’m not denying that some kids (and adults) have had adverse reactions to ADHD medications. They have. But zombification (zombie-fying?) is pretty much what I’d call a remote possibility, at best. Um…at worst. It’s not common.

So it’s not being a neutralized couch potato that keeps ADHD men and women on the straight and narrow.

ADHD medications can unlock a person’s positive potential. And when that’s unlocked, we can throw away the key. For good.


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    Last reviewed: 29 Nov 2012

APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2012). ADHD: Criminal Minds. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 27, 2015, from


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