Older adults with ADHD are at higher risk for traffic tickets and car accidents than their counterparts without the condition.
Researchers from five US states studied more than 2,800 adults ages 65 to 79, of whom 75 had been diagnosed with ADHD. They found that adults with this condition were more than twice as likely to receive a traffic ticket and 74 percent more likely to be in a car accident.
Based on their findings, the researchers called for better treatment options for older adults with ADHD, which affects more than 40 million Americans and has led to twice as many medications being prescribed to treat the condition, such as Adderall in last years.
“These findings suggest that effective interventions are warranted to improve the diagnosis and clinical treatment of ADHD among older adults to promote safe mobility and healthy aging,” the study authors wrote.
Older adults with ADHD were more than twice as likely to receive a parking ticket and three-quarters more likely to be in a car accident than their counterparts without the condition.
Adderall prescriptions increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. In February 2020, just before the virus broke out across the United States, the drug accounted for 1.1% of drugs. By September 2022, the figure had more than doubled to 2.31% of all scripts written.
Researchers recruited 2,232 drivers ages 65 to 79 between 2015 and 2017 in five areas: Aurora, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan; San Diego, California; Baltimore, Maryland; and Cooperstown, New York. Women made up 53 percent of the study population, while men made up 47 percent.
Of the participants, 41.6 percent were between 65 and 69 years old, 34.8 percent between 70 and 74 years old, and 23.6 percent between 75 and 79 years old. The 75 adults with ADHD made up 2.6 percent of the study population. Additionally, 11.3 percent reported having anxiety, while 19.8 percent had depression.
Researchers found that older adults with ADHD were 102 percent more likely to receive traffic tickets and 74 percent more likely to be in car accidents. They were also seven percent more likely to report hard braking or slamming on the brakes without warning.
They said this could be because adults with ADHD are more impatient and pay less attention.
A limitation of the study was that it relied solely on self-report, which could have led to bias and inaccurate results. The researchers also didn’t know how severe each participant’s ADHD symptoms were.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder that is typically diagnosed in childhood, but recent years have seen an increase in diagnoses in adults.
Neuroscientists have not determined the cause of ADHD, although genetics is thought to play an important role.
The main symptoms of ADHD, which usually appear before the age of 12, include inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior. People with ADHD may be continually restless, unable to focus on a given task, talk excessively, interrupt others, and become easily distracted, among other symptoms.
However, the researchers of the new study said that undiagnosed older people are more likely to have their symptoms ignored.
‘There are still problems of underdiagnosis and treatment of ADHD in older adults. Diagnostic challenges include late onset of obvious symptoms in adulthood and recall bias for childhood-onset symptoms in older adults,” the team wrote.
They also said that illnesses diagnosed later in life, such as dementia, could have symptoms similar to those of ADHD.
Stimulants are the most commonly used medications for ADHD because they increase levels of dopamine, a key neurochemical for concentration and sustained attention.
The medications work by decreasing the amount of dopamine that is reabsorbed in the neuron that produced it in the first place.
By slowing down the reuptake of dopamine, the neurotransmitter has more time to travel from one neuron to another, transmitting information and eventually binding to a receptor, thus helping messages within the brain to be transmitted and received more effectively.
This improves communication in parts of the brain that produce dopamine and norepinephrine, a chemical that helps a person stay awake, pay attention, and think clearly.
ADHD medications are generally effective and, in many cases, are crucial to a person’s academic and social development and success. Between 70 and 80 percent of patients People taking ADHD medications experience fever or milder symptoms.
The most popular ADHD medications are Adderall and Ritalin.
The rate of women in their 20s filling prescriptions for ADHD medications like Adderall increased nearly 20 percent between 2020 and 2021, while that rate among adult men ages 30 to 39 increased nearly 15 percent.
The pandemic surge in new prescriptions has contributed to a national shortage of Adderall, which has left children unable to concentrate and behave at school, according to parents across the United States.
This is not the first study to examine the effects of ADHD on driving. Research published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2017 found that car accidents were reduced by 38 percent for medicated men with the condition and 42 percent for medicated women.
The authors also found that one in five car accidents could have been avoided if ADHD patients had received their medication.
The new study was published Wednesday in the journal. JAMA Open Network.