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Adhd Patients and Criminal Activity

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ADHD Patients and Criminal Activity

American Military University

CMRJ303 Criminology

January 15, 2013

Utilizing the research of Gudjonsson, Sigurdsson, Newton and Einarsson (2008), NIMH, (2008), Fletcher & Wolfe (2012), Babinski, Hartsouch, Lambert (1999), Jill and Page (2005) and Belluck (2012) this paper reflects the understanding of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and how it can be a contributing factor to crime.

Keywords: ADHD, crime, criminal behavior, treatments,

Crimes That Involve ADHD Patients

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is generally displayed through behavioral inhibitions. ADHD is an ever-growing problem within the United States and across the globe. Often time’s people don’t understand ADHD and how such a disorder can lead to criminal activity. Through understanding how ADHD consumes a persons life will demonstrate how this disorder plays a role in the minds of those that have committed crimes. ADHD is most often discovered in children and can continue into adolescence and adulthood. The main symptoms include difficulty maintaining a focused mindset and paying attention to specific tasks. Behavioral issues are often affected due to the difficulty controlling ones behavior. All these symptoms are then topped off with hyperactivity, or being over-active (NIMH, 2008). There are three known subtypes to ADHD. The subtypes are referred to as the following: Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, Predominantly inattentive and Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. For a person to be classified as having a predominantly hyperactive-impulsive subtype, they must have six or more symptoms of ADHD, but have fewer than six symptoms of inattention present even though inattention might still be slightly present (NIMH, 2008). To obtain a classification as being predominantly inattentive the patient must exhibit a majority of symptoms (six or more) in the inattention category and fewer than six symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are present. In this situation, hyperactivity-impulsivity may still be present in the person with the disorder (NIMH, 2008). Many children with this subtype of ADHD can be often overlooked as having the disorder or displaying symptoms of the disorder. The reason behind this theory is the child can often get along with other children and sit quietly when they are instructed to do so. The child can appear to be paying attention, but in reality they are not able to focus on the task. The child will then drift away and not pay attention to the task at hand. When children display having the combined six or more symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention, they would be classified as having Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. Most children are found to have this classification of ADHD than any other (NIMH, 2008). To date, there is no cure for people with ADHD. Studies are being conducted to enhance the treatments for this illness in children, adolescence and adults. Although it has not been scientifically proven that crime is associated with ADHD, statistics have shown that approximately 50% of inmates have been screened and found to have had childhood ADHD and, of those, about half retain full or partial symptoms in adulthood (Gudjonsson, Sigurdsson, Newton and Einarsson, 2008). In the recent years, ADHD has also been linked with a wide range of crimes. A various degree of crimes such as minor traffic violations, offenses and serious crimes have been reported. In particular, property theft, carrying a concealed weapon, illegal drug possession, and arrests rates have been shown to be positively related to ADHD status, as have admission into juvenile justice facilities. However, in most cases the reported associations were estimated using cross sectional data on fewer than 300 individuals. Nevertheless these studies all suggest there are economic consequences of ADHD in the form of increased crime (Fletcher & Wolfe, 2012). Crime and ADHD have been linked due to the varying characteristics within ADHD patients. There are factors that aid in setting patterns for kids with ADHD that can link to future criminal activity. Children of all ages including adolescent teens that display ADHD symptoms tend to be more likely to be held back in school because ADHD assists in reducing their knowledge of the materials presented causing lower test scores and the inability to focus on the materials presented. Whether it is at an earlier age, or later in life, patients will complete fewer grades and achieve a lower grade in their course of studies. The result to this problem is achieving less education due to their inability to maintain focus on their coursework (Fletcher & Wolfe, 2012). For adolescents that have suffered this problem as they battled through school may believe that they can expect the same outcome in their future and ultimately affect their careers.
All of these factors predict that the youth with inattention symptoms is likely to be far less successful in school and therefore leave school earlier than otherwise expected. The same symptoms may also inhibit the full understanding of the consequences of numerous actions, including various crimes. This pattern may lead the youth to engage in criminal activities, both because labor market activities are limited and because the full consequences of engaging in such activities are not recognized. Easy crimes such as stealing, using and selling drugs, robbery and even burglary may all occur with little attention is paid to the consequences (Fletcher & Wolfe, 2012). .
Hyperactive ADHD is commonly associated with limited self-control of impulses or an increase quick behavior without a thorough thought process of the situation. These youth tend to be more disruptive in their activities, lose friends and partake in behaviors that are not appropriate. They too are likely to be less successful in school and in social settings. These youths would seem more likely to engage in crimes that are impulsive and to act in ways that lead to arrest. We expect to see youths with hyperactive symptoms engaging in crimes such as stealing and especially robbery but not selling drugs since this activity requires at least some planning. We also expect them to be more likely to be arrested and convicted of the crimes they do commit. Thus we have clear predictions of differential crimes committed by youth with these two types of ADHD. When we analyze the behavior of youth as a group without differentiation, we expect to see a higher probability of engaging in all of the crimes mentioned above (Fletcher & Wolfe, 2012).
Through various research, a link has been connected between adult criminal activity and behavioral problems during childhood. Mannuzza, Gittleman-Klein, Konig and Giampino (1989) found that symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, but not inattention, increased the likelihood of higher rates of self-reported crime and official arrest data. In addition, participants with a history of just conduct problems are at an increased risk for more serious crimes such as assault and robbery and those participants with symptoms of only hyperactivity-impulsivity are at increased risk for less serious crimes. The combinations of both conduct problems and hyperactivity-impulsivity consistently increases the likelihood of arrest in all categories of crime (Babinski, Hartsouch, & Lambert, 1999).
Psychological and mental affects are consistent with people deemed to have ADHD. Those who fight the battle with ADHD revealed two areas of focus that were impacted by their diagnosis: Substance use and criminality. A heightened risk of drug and alcohol dependency is a common factor for patients. This can ultimately result in a source to cause criminal activity. For Example, young boys with ADHD, are likely to be more dependent on the use of a controlled substances because of their perceived perceptions and easily influenced minds. Overall, severity of childhood inattention symptoms of ADHD has been found to predict multiple substance use outcomes (Jill and Page, 2005). When substance abuse is linked with ADHD, the impulsive nature comes out and crimes are easily committed before a person can think of the consequences. This isn’t just for people with ADHD. Mental illness is becoming more prevalent in our youths. Most times a diagnosis for such illnesses cannot even be diagnosed until a child is above 7 years old. In some cases, the onset of mental illness may occur as early as seven to 11 years old. A sample of youth with emotional disturbance (ED) ages six to 13, 24% were diagnosed with depression, 11% were diagnosed with anxiety disorders, and 70% were diagnosed with ADHD. Youth with ED also have a high risk of developing mental health disorders in adult life (John, 2012). While conducting this research the number of children that were analyzed could not be determined, but with the numbers provided we can see that the probability for a person with ADHD to commit a crime is extremely probable considering what ADHD can cause a persons psychological state to seem socially acceptable. Research indicates that crimes can likely be committed by people who are diagnosed with ADHD. Even though there is no cure for ADHD, there are treatments available to help the person with the disorder. There are treatments currently available that primarily focus on reducing the symptoms of the disorder and improve functioning. The common treatments include: medication, psychotherapy, education or training. Treatments can also be a combination of treatments depending on the needs of the patient (NIH, 2008). The most frequently used medication for treating ADHD are stimulants. This seems unusual because patients with ADHD are classified as being overactive which is the background behind ADHD. It has been found that treating a patient with a stimulant, will do a reverse affect calming children with disorder. Many types of stimulant medications are available and the type and dosage is dependent on the patient. There are other ADHD medications that are non-stimulants that work differently than stimulants. For many children, ADHD medications reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and improve their ability to focus, work, and learn. Medication also may improve physical coordination. Each patient is different and determining what works best for the patient is the key to maintaining a balance for this disorder (NIH, 2008). An article from the New York Times was released in November 2012. The article covered a study conducted by the England Journal of Medicine. The study was conducted on over 25,000 Swedish people to see if those with ADHD had fewer criminal convictions when taking medication than when they were not. Through this research 8000, people were screened with ADHD and it was discovered that men were 32 % and women were 41% less likely to commit crimes while on medication. Crimes included assault, drug offenses and homicide as well as less serious crimes. Medication varied, but many took stimulants to maintain a balanced life (Belluck, 2012). Dr. Gabrielle Carlson who is a director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Stony Brook University made a statement for this article. Dr. Carlson stated “Cutting the crime rate, that’s not trivial. Maybe it will get some help for people in jail. It gives people who were on the fence maybe a little more confidence in this treatment” (Belluck, 2012). Through this study, it was found that most people with ADHD who took medication in their early adolescent years discontinued the medication. Patients with this disorder should continue using the medication until doctors say otherwise or lower the dose or even change it. The affects can lead a person into states of misunderstood behavior and lead to criminal activity. With all the controversy on criminal activity involving people with ADHD can make a person think how many people are incarcerated with the disorders who were forced into confessing to a crime they didn’t commit. This is relevant to this research due to the nature behind criminal activity involving ADHD patients. Through research, it has been proven that patients with ADHD are likely to commit crimes. If a person who has a criminal history and innocent of a crime is interrogated for another crime and not under a doctors care. The suspect may feel inclined to admit to a crime they didn’t in-fact commit due to frustration. Through research we have established that ADHD causes problems maintaining a focused mindset and paying attention to specific tasks. If an interrogator is questioning a person who has ADHD and the disorder is unknown to the investigating officer then time can become a factor to obtaining a confession rather quickly. The frustration level can lead to drastic measures like admitting to the crime just to get them out of their current situation. Our current Correctional system is taking more inmates than most can handle. With the research that has been conducted, it is scary to think about how many people inside our country’s prison systems have ADHD. It is evident that crimes are likely to be committed by people with ADHD, but how many crimes were committed by people who don’t know they have this disorder. Through this research, I believe crimes could have been stopped if ADHD screenings were conducted at early ages and through the use of controlled medication. ADHD is a life controlling illness that can cause drastic behavior in both men and women at any age. Without controlling this disorder through the use of medication, therapy or a combination of treatments crime is likely to occur. It is apparent that our criminal justice system is seeing more cases with not only ADHD patients as suspects, but other disorders that are similar in nature.

Babinski, L.M., Hartsough, C.S., & Lambert, N.M. (1999). Childhood conduct problems, hyperactivity-impulsivity, and inattention as predictors of adult criminal activity. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 40(3), 347-355.
Belluck, P. (n.d.). A.d.h.d. study suggests links between medication and fewer crimes. Retrieved from
Gudjonsson, G. H., Sigurdsson, J. F., Bragason, O. O., Newton, A. K., & Einarsson, E. (2008). Interrogative suggestibility, compliance and false confessions among prisoners and their relationship with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Psychological Medicine, 38(7), 1037-44. doi:
Fletcher, J., & Wolfe, B. (2012). Long-term consequences of childhood adhd on criminal activities*. Retrieved from
Jill, A. G., & Page, M. M. (2005). ADHD among incarcerated youth: An investigation on the congruency with ADHD prevalence and correlates among the general population[dagger]. American Journal of Criminal Justice : AJCJ, 30(1), 87-VII. Retrieved from

John, L. R. (2012). A case study of the identity development of an adolescent male with emotional disturbance and 48, XYYY karyotype in an institutional setting. The Qualitative Report, 17(1), 222-243. Retrieved from
National Institute of Mental Health. (2008.). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Retrieved from

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