Thursday 12 July 2018

Risk of poisoning in ADHD: meta-analysed

There was something inevitable about the results published by Maite Ruiz-Goikoetxea and colleagues [1] looking at the currently amassed scientific data "quantifying the risk of poisoning in children/adolescents with ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder]."

Inevitable, because the results of their meta-analysis observing that "ADHD is associated with a significantly higher risk of poisoning" kinda tallies with other enhanced risk(s) in relation to general injury coinciding with this diagnosis, mentioned by the same authorship group (see here).

Poisoning - "defined by the World Health Organization as “an injury that results from being exposed to an exogenous substance that causes cellular injury or death”" - covers quite a bit of ground. The authors headed into this particular topic on the basis of their previous research foray (which I blogged about) on meta-analysing injury risk in the context of ADHD [2]. They started out with the premise that "a plausible hypothesis is that ADHD symptoms (inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity) could lead to a similar increase in the risk of poisoning."

Nine studies including some 85,000 children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD and 1.4 million not-ADHD controls, were included in their meta-analysis. Diagnosis of ADHD were garnered from various sources but most commonly 'administrative coding' on the basis of diagnosis and/or medication being dispensed for ADHD. Exposure to a poisoning event was also analysed; predominantly based on the use of registry data and predominantly utilising the ICD classification of poisoning.

"Overall, poisoning cases were uncommon" is an important point made by the authors; indicating that the absolute numbers of poisoning cases in ADHD and not-ADHD were actually low. So: "The median number per study of poisoned individuals that suffered from ADHD was 14..., whereas the median number per study of poisoned individuals who did not suffer from ADHD was 29." Bearing in mind there were more not-ADHD participants than diagnosed ADHD participants cumulatively reviewed by Ruiz-Goikoetxea et al, the calculated prevalence rates (per 1000) of poisoning "ranged between 3.5 and 60 (median 16) in children and adolescents with ADHD and between 0.8 and 37.3 (median 4.8) in children and adolescents without ADHD."

Still, the calculated risk - relative risk - was elevated in relation to poisoning events in those diagnosed with ADHD to the tune of something like them being three times more likely to suffer a poisoning event. Authors also noted that: "the relative risk of poisoning in individuals with ADHD compared to individuals without it was statistically higher than the overall relative risk of physical injuries" thus hat-tipping their previous research efforts.

There are some other details included in the Ruiz-Goikoetxea that are noteworthy insofar as age-effects - "poisoning incidence has two peaks across the child life span" - and how "the poly-pharmacy status in many ADHD patients could increase the likelihood of an accidental poisoning." But the bottom line is that, yet again, a diagnosis of ADHD seems to put someone as some significantly heightened risk of injury, and we should be doing everything we can to minimise any additional risks to those diagnosed.


[1] Ruiz-Goikoetxea M. et al. Risk of poisoning in children and adolescents with ADHD: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sci Rep. 2018 May 15;8(1):7584.

[2] Ruiz-Goikoetxea M. et al. Risk of unintentional injuries in children and adolescents with ADHD and the impact of ADHD medications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 2018; 84: 63-71.


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