Teenagers often perform poorly behind the wheel, but adding ADHD to the mix can make them even worse drivers. Medication helps many teens with ADHD drive straight, and now University of Virginia researchers have shown that medications that help adolescents concentrate longer may also help them drive better for longer periods.
The study examined the driving habits of six male teenagers with ADHD, using both observations in a driving simulator and a diary of their habits on the road. The researchers compared the effects of using a 12-hour time-release capsule of methyl-phenidate, the drug found in Ritalin ® and many other ADHD medications, and a 4-hour short-acting methyl-phenidate pill taken three times a day.
The study showed that the subjects who took the long-acting medication every morning retained their good driving habits all day and into the evening hours. The drivers who took the short-acting dose three times a day improved too, but the effect was less consistent. They sometimes reverted to risky driving behavior, like speeding and running stop signs, throughout the day. The group that used the short-acting dose also showed a sharper drop in safe driving in the evening hours - the time when most teens are on the road.
The researchers noted that other studies have shown that medication can improve the driving habits of girls with ADHD, so these results might apply to female teens as well.