Treating ADHD in convicted criminals could have a major impact on reoffending, a study suggests.
Criminal behaviour in people diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) falls by about a third when they are on medication, the research shows.
Translated to the prison population, similar treatment could have a dramatic effect, experts believe.
Treating ADHD in convicted criminals could have a major impact on reoffending
Around four per cent of children in the UK and half as many adults are believed to suffer from the disorder, which is characterised by over-activity, impulsivity, aggression, short temper and disorganised thinking.
But a disproportionate number of people with ADHD end up being convicted of petty crimes, often related to violence and drug abuse.
Studies suggest that anything from 10 per cent to 40 per cent of prison inmates have the disorder, but few are diagnosed or treated.
Treating ADHD-affected children with drugs such as the stimulant Ritalin is controversial because of the side effects, which can include nervous system disturbances and raised blood pressure and heart rate.
But the study authors say such drugs could have a real impact on crime, although their use would have to be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis.
The findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Professor Paul Lichtenstein, one of the researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said: 'It's said that roughly 30 per cent to 40 per cent of long-serving criminals have ADHD.
'If their chances of recidivism can be reduced by 30 per cent, it would clearly affect total crime numbers in many societies.'
Almost 27 per cent of convicted criminals released from prisons in England and Wales reoffend within a year, according to the latest Ministry of Justice figures.
Besides crime, ADHD is linked to many problems that can afflict a person's life, including poor academic performance, unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse, and relationship breakdown.
However, although the disorder is known to persist into adulthood, treatment invariably stops in adolescence.
British expert Professor Philip Asherson, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said he would expect to see wide-ranging benefits if convicted criminals were regularly treated for ADHD.
'If they were in prison and showing aggressive or difficult behaviour, I'd hope to see a reduction in those aggressive behaviours,' he said.
Almost 27 per cent of convicted criminals released from prisons in England and Wales reoffend within a year, according to the latest Ministry of Justice figures
'I'd also expect to see more engagement with rehabilitation processes.
'In the long run, in the community, if people remained engaged in treatment you'd expect to see reduced rates of repeat offending but also better adjustment overall.
'They'd be more able to find employment and maintain themselves in employment, and generate better relationship and social structures.
'We would hope to see maybe half of these people showing significant benefits, but we do need to do the research.'
He pointed out that drug treatment for ADHD cost around £100 - £300 per patient per month, which was 'vastly outweighed' by the financial burden of criminal behaviour.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2237015/Giving-criminals-ADHD-medication-stop-offending-say-experts.html#ixzz2CzRPEFbo
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