Emerging research suggests attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increases the risk of subsequent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among adolescent and young adult populations by about three times.
However, investigators also discovered that short- and long-term use of ADHD medication reduced the risk of subsequent STIs among men by 30 percent and 41 percent, respectively.
The study appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).
The authors also found “ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder, and affects approximately five percent to seven percent of children and adolescents and two percent of young adults,” said lead author Mu-Hong Chen, M.D.
“Increasing evidence supports an association between ADHD and various health-risk behaviors, such as risky driving, substance abuse, and risky sexual behaviors. Clinical psychiatrists [should] focus on the occurrence of risky sexual behaviors and the risk of STIs among patients with ADHD, and emphasize that treatment with ADHD medications may be a protective factor for prevention of STIs.”
The findings are based on the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, which is a nationally representative database of medical claims and healthcare data from > 99 percent of the entire Taiwan population.
Researchers studied a group of 17,898 adolescents and young adults who were diagnosed with ADHD and 71,592 age and sex-matched non-ADHD controls who did not have STIs prior to enrollment.
Adolescents aged 12-17 years and young adults aged 18-29 years were followed from January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2009. The researchers tracked data related to risk of STIs, including HIV, syphilis, genital warts, gonorrhea, chlamydial infection, and trichomoniasis, psychiatric comorbidity, and pharmacologic treatment for ADHD (methylphenidate or atomoxetine).
The researchers found that adolescents and young adults with ADHD had greater incidence of any STI (1.2 percent versus 0.4 percent), and developed STIs at a younger age (20.51 ± 4.48 versus 21.90 ± 4.49) as compared to age- and sex-matched peers.
Moreover, investigators discovered adolescents and young adults with ADHD had a higher prevalence of psychiatric comorbidity, including disruptive behavior disorder (13.5 percent v. 0.3 percent), alcohol use disorders (1.1 percent versus 0.5 percent), and substance use disorders (2.5 percent versus 0.8 percent).
Nevertheless, the risk of contracting a STI was significantly reduced when the ADHD was appropriately managed with medications.