The teenage years are a time of increased risk as normal development brings young people to engage in more risk-taking and experimenting, particularly in the social and sexual spheres. While this risk-taking is normal for development, it brings attendant risks. Evidence continues to accumulate that youth with ADHD are at markedly increased risk of experiencing the “negative risks” of the teenage years — driving accidents, delinquency and law-enforcement contact, injury, and risky sexual behavior.
This month, a large population-based study in Taiwan noted that adolescents and young adults with ADHD had elevated risk of sexually-transmitted infection. This risk was amplified in young people who also had substance use disorders — especially in young women. In fact, when the data were adjusted for presence of a substance use disorder, girls with ADHD had a nearly 4x increased risk of a sexually-transmitted infection compared to other girls, whereas the slight increase in boys was not statistically different than chance. It was partially protected against by ongoing ADHD treatment — but only for boys. Thus, this study is consistent with some prior, smaller studies that suggested particular risks for girls with ADHD during adolescence. Fortunately, the total risk remained low (1.2 % of ADHD individuals versus 0.4% of non-ADHD individuals had an infection) but should nonetheless be taken seriously.
For parents, the best way to help your teen develop happily and safely seems to be to stay involved and keep channels of communication open. A study that examined risks of internet exploitation in teens concluded that the strongest predictor of risk was parent lack of awareness of involvement in their teen’s activities. More discussion of this can be found in Getting Ahead of ADHD in Chapter 5 and on recovering from traumatic events in Chapter 7.
Sexually Transmitted Infection Among Adolescents and Young Adults With Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Nationwide Longitudinal Study. Chen MH, Hsu JW, Huang KL, Bai YM, Ko NY, Su TP, Li CT, Lin WC, Tsai SJ, Pan TL, Chang WH, Chen TJ.J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2018 Jan;57(1):48-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2017.09.438. Epub 2017 Nov 10.