ADHD News & Research

Treating ADHD with Medication May Lower the Risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections

A large Taiwanese study found that males with ADHD who were treated with stimulant medication were significantly less likely to contract an STI than were their non-medicated peers.

January 4, 2018

Adolescents and adults with ADHD have a heightened risk of engaging in unsafe sexual behaviors — and they are more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as a result. According to a large new study, however, the use of ADHD medications may help to mitigate that STI risk — at least in male subjects.

A cohort of 89,490 Taiwanese adolescents and young adults — 17,898 of whom had been diagnosed with ADHD — were culled from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, which contains healthcare data for 99 percent of the population of Taiwan. The ADHD subjects were each matched with a control subject of the same age and gender who had not been diagnosed with ADHD. The researchers tracked subjects’ diagnosis and treatment rates for the most common STIs, including HIV, syphilis, genital warts, gonorrhea, chlamydial infection, and trichomoniasis, as well as their use of ADHD medication and the presence of comorbid conditions.

Confirming past studies, the researchers found that the ADHD group had a much higher rate of STIs than did the control group (1.2 percent vs. 0.4 percent) — and its members typically contracted the diseases at a younger age.

Males with ADHD who managed their symptoms with medication, however, demonstrated a significantly lower risk of developing an STI — 30 percent less for individuals with short-term medication use, and 40 percent less for individuals with long-term medication use. On the other hand, female subjects who used medication demonstrated no similar decrease in risk, and were also more likely to have comorbid substance abuse disorders alongside STIs.

Still, the researchers said, the study1 adds to the growing body of evidence that ADHD medication can help manage some patients’ propensity for dangerous or unhealthy behavior.

“Increasing evidence supports an association between ADHD and various health-risk behaviors, such as risky driving, substance abuse, and risky sexual behaviors,” said lead author Mu-Hong Chen, M.D., of the College of Medicine at National Yang-Ming University. “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.”

1 Chen, Mu-Hong, et al. “Sexually Transmitted Infection Among Adolescents and Young Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Nationwide Longitudinal Study.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, vol. 57, no. 1, 2018, pp. 48–53., doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2017.09.438.